In sympathy with the great autumn migration, another batch of racing yachtsmen and women gathers in Le Havre at the weekend before the Jacques Vabre two-handed, transatlantic race to Cartagena, Colombo.
However, even Peter Mandelson, the Labour Party spindoctor, could not fix a dreamier ticket than the teaming of the British yachting hero Pete Goss with the man he rescued from the icy gales of the southern ocean last Boxing Day, the Frenchman Raphael Dinelli.
It was during the 10 days Goss took to ferry Dinelli from his upturned yacht to the safety of Hobart, Tasmania, that the two first talked about yachts. Then they decided to race together.
Dinelli was made famous in France, Goss a member of the Legion d'Honneur and feted back in Britain. Even so, they have found it difficult to find sponsorship to enter Goss's British-designed and built 50-footer, renamed BMW Performance in Plymouth yesterday, in the race which starts on 11 October.
With two weeks to go, luck went Goss's way and a five- figure sum was found to complete the refit of the boat and buy some sails.
For the most part Goss has seen life improve. The huge overdraft he incurred to take part in the Vendee Globe single-handed, non-stop round the world race is nearly cleared.
Advances on both a book, to be written next year, and the outline of a film have allowed him to buy for his wife and two children a new home on his native Cornish side of the Tamar Bridge.
Corporate entertaining work and personal appearances have also combined to improve his personal circumstances. He continues work started secretly over two years ago to design and build a giant catamaran for The Race, an uncompromising, non-stop circumnavigation that starts on 31 December, 2000.
Next year he will return the compliment for Dinelli by joining him for the Jacques Vabre on the new 60-footer Dinelli is building in France for the next Vendee Globe.
Goss has even been loaned a BMW which, to his amazement, he found included a television in the dashboard. "We turned it on going home on the ferry the other night ," he said yesterday, "and then I thought, `do I need a licence for this?'"
Goss remains modest, cheerful and approachable, but he also wants to show well in a race where he will have to muster every ounce of concentration and determination if he is to conquer some tough opposition.
Crossing the Bay of Biscay Britain's Mark Turner was lying second in Carphone Warehouse yesterday, despite a problem with his steering gear, three days into the first leg of the Mini Transat from Brest to Tenerife. Ellen MacArthur, 21 and the only woman in the single-handed race which goes on to Fort de France, Martinique, was lying 33rd in Financial Dynamics.
In light, eight to 12 knot north-easterlies, Knut Frostad was increasing his lead in the Whitbread Race, but he was wary of becoming trapped on the wrong side of squalls as the 10-boat fleet heads for the Cape Verde Islands.
WHITBREAD RACE (Leg One, Southampton to Cape Town) Standings, with miles, to the finish: 1 Kvaerner (Nor) 5406.7; 2 Merit Cup (Mon) 5421.5; 3 EF Language (Swe) 5434.8; 4 Chessie racing (US) 5454.2; 5 Silk Cut (GB) 5473.7; 6 Toshiba (US) 5514.6; 7 America's Challenge (US) 5587.4; 8 Swedish Match (Swe) 5592; 9 Brunel Sunergy (Neth), 5659.3; 10 EF Education (Swe), 5721.8.Reuse content