Sailing: Australian boat's big Challenge

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The Independent Online

Or at least five of them are in place. The sixth, Sweden's Ericsson, skippered by Britain's Neal McDonald and with the inshore tactician John Kostecki in place, is due today with its new mast but the seventh, Australia's Premier Challenge, is under some pressure.

The Melbourne team, skippered by Grant Wharington, is still awaiting the arrival of their yacht in Zeebrugge, Belgium, where it will be rigged and checked before departing for Spain. The cash-strapped outfit has already warned it may only be able to complete the first leg to Cape Town, starting on 12 November.

Over in Barcelona, Ellen MacArthur, who has all but run out of time to make her transatlantic record attempt from New York in the 75-foot trimaran B&Q, is due next week to announce a new, two-handed non-stop round-the-world race in Open 60 yachts, starting in 2007.

She then goes direct to Le Havre to join up with Roland Jourdain for their assault on the Transat Jacques Vabre, also two-handed in Open 60s, westwards across the Atlantic to Bahia de Salvador, Brazil.

Further south, as the BMW Oracle team heads home to the United States - the US having missed out on the 2005 America's Cup road show regatta programme - the Swiss-based defender Alinghi has moved into its new, €7m (£4.8m), 70,000-square foot base in Valencia.

The huge, dockside America's Cup village is rapidly taking shape as is the new canal through to the race track in the bay.

The other piece of the jigsaw is in Bilbao, where the Five Oceans singlehanded race around the world with stopovers starts next year.