Volvo Ocean Race gets choppy start

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Competitors in the quadrennial Volvo Ocean Race knew they were in for a bumpy ride when they could barely hear Saturday’s starting gun over the roar of the wind and white-capped seas, according to the Associated Press.

Eight 70-foot racing yachts with 11 crewmembers each lined up on the blustery shores of Alicante, Spain, to begin the 37,000 nautical mile round-the-world race that will complete its journey in St. Petersburg, Russia, in June 2009. Ericsson 4 skippered by Torben Grael cut through the chop, leading around the first two markers of the southeastern Mediterranean coast. Team Russia ran into problems and was in last place as the vessels took off, according to the report.

The yachts have been designed to cover more than 500 miles per day given the right conditions, so there is an expectation the race record for the fastest 24-hour run by a monohull will be broken, according to the report. The current record is held by ABN AMRO 2 at 562.96 nautical miles, achieved in the most recent edition of this race.

The teams will head toward the Strait of Gibraltar before turning south into the Atlantic Ocean to take on the 7,840-mile first leg to Cape Town,South Africa. Competitors have been cautioned about the severe storm conditions around Gibraltar after two cargo ships ran aground the day of the race start, according to the report. The 35,000-ton Fedra, with 31 crew aboard, hit the rocks and broke apart; and the Liberian-flagged Tawe, with 22 crew, was beached in AlgecirasBay, according to the report. All crew were rescued safely, but competitors have been advised to use extreme caution.

Teams can earn points along the way with 10 legs and six in-port regattas before they reach the finish line. For information, visit www.volvooceanrace.org.

— Elizabeth Ellis