by Catherine Green
Race 7 to Victoria, Canada started in spectacular style in Qingdao on Saturday with Cardiff surging across the line first in 25 knots of wind and bright sunshine closely followed by Durban.
Under reefed mains and headsails, the fleet bunched up at the windward end of the line as they sailed away the crowds lining Fushan Bay.
Solo Yachtswoman Dame Ellen Macarthur, who visited each of the ten teams this morning to wish them luck for the Pacific Race, counted down to the start before the Chinese Coastguard fired the start cannon. Prior to the start, Ellen was out on B&Q to lead the fleet around the bay in formation.
Qingdao and Singapore were battling it out together behind Cardiff as the fleet headed away from Asia towards North America across the Pacific.
The action was broadcast live on Chinese television to an audience of almost 500 million and the CCTV news helicopter hovered overhead as the fleet bid farewell to their Chinese hosts.
Before leaving Qingdao on Saturday morning the ten Clipper skippers were presented with ceremonial kites and bottles for each boat to throw overboard on the International Date Line containing messages of goodwill from local Qingdao schoolchildren.
Over 5,000 racing pigeons and confetti mortars were released as the Mayor of Qingdao wished the fleet well for the 5,600-mile race ahead.
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8:36 PM Sat 8 Apr 2006 GMT
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2005-2006 Clipper Race
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