Sailing: Grael has Pirates in sight

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The Independent Online

As the first boats from an entry of 1,635 gathered in Cowes last night for today's 50-mile Round the Island Race, they were given a taste of what is to come as the six remaining yachts in the Volvo Race made their way out of the Solent on the eighth leg to Rotterdam.

Although the overall trophy is already in the bag for Mike Sanderson's ABN Amro 1, Brasil 1's Torben Grael is still hoping to grab second from Paul Cayard, whose Pirates of the Caribbean crew left wearing England football shirts.

Light winds meant that the afterburners were silent and there was every prospect of having to take an anchor watch when the tide turned against them last night. Not what these fast and powerful machines are designed to do.

As the crews added just a little extra food before they left the dock in Gunwharf Quays for the start off Southsea Castle, the sight of foul-weather gear and sea boots also being carried aboard looked less appropriate than the shorts and flip-flops that many were wearing. But the pace should pick up by the time they reach the Fastnet Rock and turn right up the west coast of Ireland.

The forecast for the thousands going round the Wight, who include Ellen MacArthur, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in his new Open 60 Grey Power, and Pete Goss making a return in a 30-foot trimaran ahead of the Round Britain and Ireland Race next week, is not so encouraging.

Perhaps David Dimbleby can talk up a storm when he joins Mike Golding on Ecover, but the record books do not lie and there is little prospect of them being rewritten, unless it is to say that many do not complete the course.

There will be a short window of opportunity during late morning and early afternoon. For the rest, straw hats and sun cream may be the best battledress.

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