Our race has finally started, for some us we've been waiting for this day for literally years and when it arrived, it felt a bit surreal. It was a chilly but sunny morning and all the fanfare from the previous day was a distant memory, or was it all a dream and this was another training week?
When we crossed the line at 9.30am it was clear that this was serious stuff. We started downwind with a yankee but it soon became obvious that the spinnaker was needed as they started to pop up across the fleet. So up ours went, the first time that any of us had seen our branded spinnaker flying. What a fantastic sight as most of the fleet had their spinnakers up. We slowly made our way up the fleet and had a little race between ourselves and Derry as we came up to our first racing mark. Our first mark of the day and of many we will encounter over the year. We were now downwind sailing in beautiful blue skies all morning with regular gybes as if we'd been doing them regularly every day.
Eventually we got to the point that our beautiful kite had to come down – well what goes up.... We managed to drop it without too much bother – yet another first and a manoeuvre that can be a bit fraught.
Now we're well on our way and everyone has completed at least a couple of watches and the rhythm of being at sea starts to set in. We're still seeing the other boats around us and it feels like we'll be racing with them closely all the way to Brest. It feels like we've been up and down in the rankings all day and with head sail changes and reefs in and out of the main it's hard to gauge how we're doing. As long as we keep focussed on our own sailing we'll come out pretty well I think and we shouldn't be distracted by things going on around us early on.
I'm thinking that we'll have our last view of the UK at some point over the next 24 hours. For some of us it will be a relatively short farewell, but for others it's going to be a long time before they see these shores again and what adventures await us in the mean time?
Graham McMillan and Anne Woodward