The Volvo Ocean Race is billed as the longest professional sporting event in the world and in taking nine months to sail 39,000 nautical miles the label is certainly merited.
by Martin Tasker
So it's a touch ironic that such a marathon should start with a sprint, and even more ironic that the sprint should turn into a hideous wallow with these ocean greyhounds looking like a pack of nodding dogs see-sawing in a windless swell.
That was the story of the in-port race off the Volvo headquarters in Alicante, the Spanish port currently in festival mode as the big start looms in a week's time.
Sadly the practice race was all the organisers hoped the real thing would be with light airs giving way to a cracking breeze which the Emirates Team New Zealand crew on Camper lapped up.
The actual race began with a breeze that faded to nothing with just one boat breaking away from the pack to win a shortened sprint by a huge margin. It was very satisfying for British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker driving Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and very frustrating for everyone else as his lead grew and grew.
But given the lottery element created by the fickle and fading breeze it became no surprise to hear Ken Read on Puma express utter delight at second with the Kiwis on Camper equally pleased and relieved at taking third.
After watching two days of racing here most observers already see those on the podium looking it will be familiar territory and there seems to be little between them speed-wise.
Of course it is very early days and, as noted above, there's a long way to go. It should be quite a ride. While there may only be six boats in the fleet they are astonishing machines to be hold and their power if almost frightening.
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8:08 AM Mon 31 Oct 2011 GMT
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