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Portimao Global Ocean Race starts

Oct 14, 2008 Even though its bigger cousins like the Vendee Globe and the Volvo Ocean Race are better known, the Portimao Global Ocean Race has still managed to get a fleet together and get sailing. The start was this Sunday on Oct. 12th and already the competitors are well out into the Atlantic. The Volvo race started on Saturday, Oct. 11 and the Vendee Globe is set to go on Nov. 9th.

From the press release: Twenty four hours into the Portimao Global Ocean Race and Belgium's Michel Kleinjans is giving his fellow competitors a lesson on how to leverage the first day of an around-the-world race. After a conservative start off Portimão yesterday, Kleinjans quickly turned on the afterburners and rocketed to the front of the fleet. Sailing closer to the beach on the way to the first mandatory gate at Sagres, a spectacular promenade 20 miles into the race, Kleinjans aboard his Open 40, Roaring Forty, was able to match the leaders boat for boat. As they approached the waypoint that marked the southern end of the gate, Roaring Forty enjoyed a better wind angle and was soon well in the lead claiming the first of many cape roundings as his own. To help celebrate a pod of dolphins joined in the fun.

The wind died with the setting sun and speeds dropped, but Roaring Forty kept putting distance on the rest of the pack. "As I expected, the combination of a bit more sail area with my mast being bigger than before, and probably a weight advantage as I am alone and this boat is some 300 kilograms lighter then the Class 40 boats, makes for a good light weather combination,‚¬VbCrLf said Kleinjans. "So the first part of the race to Sagres, which was pretty straightforward, showed already some potential although it was just a very little battle in comparison to things to come.‚¬VbCrLf

Roaring Forty is one of two Open 40's in the race (the other being Hayai) meaning that they were designed under an old rule that allowed carbon fiber to be used in the hull. The result was a light, strong boat that could carry a generous amount of sail area, all good attributes for light wind racing. Add to that Michel is only carrying supplies for one person, rather than two, and that explains somewhat why he is in the lead although any good sailor knows it's never quite that simple.

After rounding the waypoint off Sagres the fleet headed south on a course that paralleled the African coast, and by daybreak this morning a steady northerly wind had kicked in. To protect his lead Michel gybed downwind playing the game that every dinghy sailor understands; always stay between your competition and the next mark. It was a tactic that paid off perfectly.

Astern of Roaring Forty a battle-royal was in full swing between the rest of the pack. At this morning's poll Beluga Racer, Kazimir Partners and Mowgli were in a dead heat in terms of distance to go. Desafio Cabo de Hornos was also in the pack but not polling correctly and appearing to be behind. Later this afternoon (European time) Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz were solidly in third behind Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer while the British duo aboard Team Mowgli lost concentration when their electronics briefly misfired. The result of two heads below troubleshooting and none on deck was an opportunity for Nico Budel on Hayai to slip by and at the latest poll the Dutch grandfather was just ahead of Salvesen and Thomson.

It may be another long night for the fleet as the wind is expected to ease up as darkness approaches, but it's a welcome respite for all the sailors after a tense and busy lead up to the start.

Leaderboard at 15:30 UTC Monday, 13th October 2008

Roaring Forty - distance to finish 6153 nautical miles
Beluga Racer - distance to finish 6177 nautical miles
Desafia Cabo de Hornos - distance to finish 6109 nautical miles
Kazimir Partners - distance to finish 6193 nautical miles
Hayai - distance to finish 6200 nautical miles
Team Mowgli - distance to finish 6206 nautical miles

There are numerous images of the week leading up to the start, the start itself and the boats rounding Sagres in the Photo section of the race website. Video will be posted shortly.

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