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Thousands watch the start of the BT Global Challenge 2000/01

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<div> <P> Thousands of friends, family and spectators watched from onboard hundreds of small boats, cruisers and yachts that crammed The Solent to see the start of the BT Global Challenge 2000/01 yesterday,(Sunday September 10). </P> <P> After years of preparation for the 12 skippers and 300 international crew volunteers, the world's toughest yacht race started to the sound of the gun fired at 1205 hrs (BST). With warm sunshine breaking through the mist and light airs the fleet of yachts dramatically popped their spinnakers within seconds of each other. Spirit of Hong Kong, skippered by Australian Steve Wilkins, crossed the line first followed closely by Compaq and Save the Children. Norwich Union picked up a stronger current and surged past these very early leaders to take the lead. However, the light winds were unpredictable and the first miles saw this lead change several times. </P> <P> Earlier in the day families had gathered at Ocean Village Marina in Southampton to bid the crews an emotional farewell. However, there remained an electric atmosphere with crews boarding their yachts in fancy dress and having dyed their hair in team colours from green to orange. Manley Hopkinson, skipper of Olympic Group said: &amp;quot;There is such a buzz and atmosphere here. I know we will all remember this moment for the rest of our lives.&amp;quot; </P> <P> Concern amongst the spectators that the foggy, still morning would delay the start proved unfounded as the first yachts slipped their moorings and the sun broke through to burn off the heavy mist. </P> <P> Skippers had made the decision to leave Ocean Village early in order to settle the crews after their emotional farewells and practice racing starts to make an early lead. After all the months of team building and sail training the first miles west through The Solent were vital to set the standard for the rest of the 3,200 mile leg to Boston. With light south-westerly airs and following tide the twelve state-of-the-art yachts, distinctive with their BT communications domes, made little more than four knots as they crossed the start line within seconds of the 1205 hrs start gun fired by Sir Peter Bonfield, chief executive of BT, from on board the official start ferry &amp;quot;The Bretagne&amp;quot;. </P> <P> Early favourite LG FLATRON, skippered by Conrad Humphreys, found themselves placed in the middle of the pack as the fleet raced down the start corridor avoiding the many hundreds of craft swarming around them. The first three places alternated between Norwich Union, skippered by Neil Murray, Olympic Group and Compaq, skippered by Will Oxley from Australia. </P> <P> In a celebration of sailing, The Solent saw almost 1000 boats on the water, from the channel ferry &amp;quot;Bretagne&amp;quot; to hundreds of Laser dinghies, wishing the crews of the BT Global Challenge 2000/01 &amp;quot;bon voyage&amp;quot;. Crowds of spectators also lined the wall of the famous Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, Isle of Wight to watch as the fleet tacked, passing very close to the Squadron, before making their way south-west to Hurst Narrows. </P> <P> It was here, three hours after race start, that the skippers made the decision to drop anchor as the light airs meant they were unable to make the tidal gate between the narrows and The Needles to sail out into the Atlantic. It will be this critical period when the decision is made to up anchor and try for the narrows or wait that will determine who takes that lead onto the next leg to Boston. </P> <UL> <LI>Notes to Editors About BT Global Challenge: </LI></UL> <P> The BT Global Challenge, the world's toughest yacht race, starts from Ocean Village Southampton on September 10, 2000. It is the only round-the-world yacht race to circumnavigate the globe against prevailing winds and currents. The race will involve 12 yachts, over 300 international crew volunteers and will take approximately ten months to complete. </P> <P> The yacht sponsors are - BP, CGNU, Compaq, Isle of Man, LG FLATRON, Logica, Olympic Group, Quadstone, Serco, Invest HK, TeamSpirIT and Veritas. </P> <P> The Route: </P> <PRE> FROM TO MILES DAYS YACHTS DEPART YACHTS ARRIVE Southampton Boston 3,200 18 10/09/00 28/09/00 Boston Buenos Aires 5,840 35 15/10/00 19/11/00 Buenos Aires Wellington 6,020 31 10/12/00 10/01/01 Wellington Sydney 1,230 7 18/02/01 25/02/01 Sydney Cape Town 6,200 37 11/03/01 17/04/01 Cape Town La Rochelle 5,820 30 13/05/01 12/06/01 La Rochelle Southampton 300 3 20/06/01 23/06/01 </PRE> <P> Pool News Feed: </P> <P> Pool news feed and &amp;quot;b-roll&amp;quot; material, including archive stock, is available from United Sport. Contact Robin Britton on +44 (0) 7801 522905 or +44 (0)23 80 222 555 or e-mail <A HREF="mailto:brittonr@meridiantv.com">brittonr@meridiantv.com</A> </P> <P> Photography: </P> <P> Rights free photography of BT Global Challenge is available from Marinepics or <A target="_blank" href="http://www.imagenet.co.uk">http://www.imagenet.co.uk</A> , contact Mark Pepper on +44 (0)1489 573753 or email <A HREF="mailto:info@marinepics.com">info@marinepics.com</A> </P> <P> For Race Information: </P> <P> By Internet - <A target="_blank" href="http://www.btchallenge.com">http://www.btchallenge.com,</A> BT Telephone recorded race information - 0870 600 2001 BT Fax Information Retrieval Service - 0870 242 2010. </P> <P> About BT: </P> <P> British Telecommunications plc is one of the world's leading providers of telecommunications services. Its principal activities include local, long distance and international telecommunications services, mobile communications, internet services and IT solutions. BT has operations in more than 30 countries worldwide, with ventures in the Republic of Ireland, France, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Latin America and India. BT and AT&amp;T have also created Concert, the leading global telecommunications company serving multi-national business customers, international carriers and Internet service providers worldwide. </P> <P> About Challenge Business: </P> <P> Challenge Business is the race organiser of the BT Global Challenge. As organisers of the world's toughest events, Challenge Business is a world leader in creating unique and challenging events that attract everyday people with extraordinary ambitions. </P> <P> Events include: the BT Global Challenge (the world's toughest yacht race); New World Challenge; Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge and the Open 60s L'Atlantique Challenge. Other activities include Challenge Corporate Events and Challenge Adventure Sailing. </P> <P> Sir Chay Blyth, founder and executive chairman, Challenge Business is the first man to have sailed single-handed around the world against prevailing winds and currents. He created the BT Global Challenge to allow other skippers and crew volunteers access to the same experience and opportunity. </div>

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