The seven maxi yachts taking part in the first edition of the Transatlantic Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup set off at 13.05 UTC Tuesday, bound for the Caribbean island of St Maarten, just over 3,000 miles (2,600 nautical miles) away across the Atlantic Ocean.
Organizers the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, with the support of the local Real Club Nautico de Tenerife, positioned the starting line just north of the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and set a windward mark at approximately 1.5 nautical miles, thereby providing the many spectator boats with a breathtaking sight as they followed some of the largest sailing boats in the world up the coast against the backdrop of the magnificent Mount Teide volcano.
Winds on the starting line were light, approximately 10 knots, and north-easterly, but would soon increase as the fleet left the shelter of the coast and moved into the channel between Tenerife and its southerly neighbour the island of Gran Canaria, with gusts reaching up to 30 knots.
With seven maxi yachts competing and crews ranging from eight to 15, a total of around 100 sailors assembled in Tenerife for the start, ranging from an all amateur crew aboard Will Apold's Valkyrie (CAN) to Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread Race veteran Knut Frostad on Morten Bergsen's Nariida (NOR) and America's Cup sailors such as Mal Parker (Victory Challenge) on board Peter Harrison's Sojana (GBR).
The atmosphere on the docks was jubilant before the maxis cast off today with many smiles raised when Valkyrie began blasting out, quite appropriately, a rousing chorus of Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' that was followed by a round of applause from competitors, press and spectators alike.
Sojana Start -
Once out on the race course things got more serious. The largest two maxis in the fleet, Sojana (115 feet) and Nariida (104 feet) got off to an excellent start despite the light winds which would normally tend to favour the smaller yachts. The Norwegian boat rounded the windward mark just ahead of Sojana with Anders Johnson's Blue Pearl (GBR) in third place.
The majority of the fleet then headed towards the middle of the channel before turning southwest and proceeding down around the southern tip of the island where only La Gomera and El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, lie between them and a 3,000 mile stretch of Atlantic Ocean.
Only Julie Marie (GER), a newly launched Swan 100 owned by Bernd Kortüm, and Gerhard Reuther's Zefiro (GER) chose to stick close to the Tenerfie coastline for the descent towards open seas.
IMA President Peter Offen, who was part of the driving force behind creating this event, was unfortunately unable to compete with his Y3K due to mechanical problems but was on the starting line to see his fellow maxi owners off. 'There were perfect conditions at the start, the start was nicely organized. It was bit of a surprise to see some of the boats start so cautiously: one had a reef main and one had a number three jib which may have been over-cautious.
Of course it's great to be able to follow the ships on the tracking system and to see the two Wallys in the lead, they are used to racing so much you see. It is also interesting to see Blue Pearl, which is the smallest boat in the fleet and she is in third position. Of course, over the next ten days there will be many wind shifts and many changes of position but if you look at Nariida's speed at the moment, around 18 knots, if she keeps that up it will be a very quick passage.'
Late this afternoon the fleet was rounding the southern tip of Tenerife led by Nariida. Provisions for the next 24 hours see winds moving around towards east and dropping to approximately 10 to 15 knots. Competitors are free to choose their own course as there are no marks to be observed along the route. The Prizegiving is scheduled for 14th December 2007 in St Maarten.
Full details of the event, including entry lists, sailing instructions, photographs and live tracking, are available at www.yccs.it