A fanfare start
The Gitana Team ² set out at more than 25 knots, bang on time over the starting line, with Marc crossing the start just a few seconds behind Michel Desjoyeaux on Géant the first boat across, with Fred's Gitana 11 off his stern. A few moments later, Gitana X rapidly took the lead of the fleet as Marc had decided to put up all the canvas he had on his trimaran, with one reef in the main and a big staysail up, whereas his fellow racers were more conservative for the first few hours, with two reefs in the main and a small staysail. Some just had a small jib up front - Fred Le Peutrec, for example, determined to make sure that his steed had hold the distance.
Unfortunately, Gitana X misinterpreted the position of the starting line. The orange buoy at the end of the line was hardly visible in the choppy waters on the start with waves one metre high, which means that Marc found himself beyond the line. At a time when he was leading the multihull fleet, the Race Committee immediately informed him of the penalty to be paid – a 40 minute wait at the Eddystone Lighthouse, 8 miles from Plymouth. Banque Covefi was therefore declared winner of the small course from the start to Eddystone. Gitana 11 was very much at ease in rough weather and appeared in the top five as the fleet passed this race mark.
The trimarans could then free off the sheets and accelerate at more than 20 knots on a long tack down to Land's End, the western tip England which they passed at the end of the afternoon. The weather was still manageable around 17h00 with a south-easterly 20-knot (force 5) wind conditions still every bit as damp as before !
The other competitors
Before the starting shot was fired, Yves Parlier (Médiatis Région Aquitaine) was forced to return to base to carry out speedy repairs to his automatic pilots but soon got underway again, being a little bit late off the start. Not so speedy was Alain Gautier (Foncia) who also turned tail for Plymouth to re-solder his broken steering quadrant and set out once again one and a half hours later. In the 50-foot multi fleet, veteran Mike Birch (72 years old) also had to make for start base to sort out problems with his pilot, as did the American entrant as he had a broken mainsail halyard.