Brad van Liew sets pace at start of Five Oceans

American solo sailor Brad van Liew set the pace at the start of the Velux Five Oceans Race as the fleet of five crossed the start line on the first leg off La Rochelle to Cape Town.

Chris Stanmore-Major carried the flag for Britain and, with Canada’s Derek Hatfield and Zbigniew Gutkowski of Poland could all look forward to relatively benign conditions on the first night of their 7000-mile run south.

But the fifth competitor, Christophe Bullens of Belgium, has to do a final qualifying sail of 48 hours, restarting from La Rochelle on Tuesday, having substituted his yacht, Five Oceans of Smiles, at the last minute for one which was badly damaged off Cherbourg on the way to the start.

One of the world’s longest-running singlehanded yacht races, the Velux started life in an office building in Hammersmith and was launched as the BOC Singlehanded Race round the world. Now it is still, essentially, based in Britain as one of a stable events run by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Clipper Ventures, which also runs a round the world race for paying, fully-crewed yachts.

This week sees a meeting in Paris for potential teams for the next America’s Cup in 2013. Outlining plans, including the launch of a new 45-foot class of wing sail catamaran being built in New Zealand, will be the new chief executive of America’s Cup Race Management, the Australian Iain Murray, along with chief operating officer Andy Hindley.

Britain’s Team Origin, which is disposing of many of its assets, will not be there, having pulled out of the event, but representatives from established outfits in Italy, New Zealand and Sweden are expected to be joined by new teams yet to be revealed.

In Britain, final preparations are being made for the world governing body, the International Sailing Federation’s annual general meeting in Greece next month. Chief among the contentious issues will be a proposal to set in train a new way of selecting the yachts for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Instead of, in theory, starting from scratch ahead of each Games, the delegates will be asked to approve the choice of a core group of boats, perhaps six or seven, with the remaining three medal classes then being subjected to a kind of Star Chamber competition to complete the 10 medal classes.