Davies loads up for Atlantic dash

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The Independent Online

A bright yellow holdall was yesterday stealthily being stowed on 60 feet of pink racing machine ahead of a 12-day, 3,000-mile dash across the Atlantic.

Singlehander Samantha Davies, whose yacht Roxy is sponsored by the French leisure clothes group, knows that fresh food means carrying extra weight, but the pleasure of apples, oranges, strawberries and tomatoes - but no bananas which are considered unlucky - make it all worthwhile as she bids to upset the form book in a fleet of 13 heavily dominated by the French.

Further down the dock, Dee Caffari has a fruit cake made by her partner, Harry Spedding's mother Ros and in the 11-strong 40-foot fleet Miranda Merron has both a Christmas cake without the icing made by her mother Sue and a pile of millionaire shortbread from the Bonne Bouche deli in her native Hamble. She was second off the start.

While light winds and sunshine attracted a huge spectator crowd, they also have a lot of work to do. The Artemis Transat, which goes back to 1960, is both a stepping stone to the Vendee Globe non-stop singlehanded round the world race in November and a serious challenge in its own right.

The limit line to keep the boats away from the drifting arctic ice has been set a long way south this year and there is always the threat of fog crossing the Grand Banks fishing zone.

Bidding for a third win is early leader Loick Peyron in Gitana 80, but he faces stiff competition from second-placed Seb Josse in BT, third-placed Marc Guillemot in Safran, Michel Desjoyeaux in Foncia, and Vincent Riou in PRB.

Ben Ainslie came from behind to snatch the European Finn title at Scarlino, Italy. He was eight points adrift going into the final race but won in convincing style while the previous leader, Guillaume Florent of France slumped to third after managing only eighth in the decider.