The Golden Globe Race is now underway, with 17 of the 18 entrants making the start line in Les Sables d'Olonne in France.

Two of the most experienced offshore racers in the Golden Globe Race  – Philippe Péché and Jean-Luc Van Den Heede – battled for an early lead as the race officially got underway on 1 July from Les Sables d’Olonne in France.

But it was the fiercely competitive Péché aboard his Rustler 36 PRB, who pulled out a 100 metre lead within minutes of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, winner of the first GGR 50 years before, firing the canon from the deck of his historic yacht, Suhaili.

Péché, who has twice won the Jules Verne Trophy with Bruno Peyron, has ensured PRB is one of the lightest in the fleet: the Rustler is carrying a huge lightweight genoa.

Behind him, former Vendee Globe racer Van Den Heede, who has five previous circumnavigations to his credit and at 73, is the oldest skipper in this race, appeared to jostle with Tapio Lehtinen’s Finnish yacht Asteria.

One  hour after the start, and Van Den Heede and the former Whitbread Round the World sailor were still locked in a 3-way tie with Dutchman Mark Slats for third place.

See pictures of the start below

There tactics meant that 2010 Jester Challenge winner, Russia’s Igor Zaretskiy to quietly sail into second place in his Endurance 35, Esmeralda.

They were followed by Are Wiig’s 32ft Norwegian double-ender Olleanna and Indian Navy pilot Abhilash Tomy, who is sailing a wooden replica of Sir Robin’s Suhaili.

By contrast, Britain’s Susie Goodall kept her Rustler 36 DHL Starlight well clear of other yachts and made a good mid fleet start in line with Istvan Kopar’s American yacht Puffin, fellow British entrant Ertan Bescardes in his Rustler 36, Lazy Otter and Antoine Cousot’s French Biscay 36 Métier Intérim.

Ireland’s Gregor McGuckin sailing the Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance led the third group, just ahead of Frenchman Loïc Lepage and the two Australian entrants, Kevin Farebrother’s Tradewind 35 Sagarmatha, and Mark Sinclair’s Lello 34 Coconut.

Tracker positions following the start of the Golden Globe Race

The majority of the fleet is heading into the Bay of Biscay in search of stronger winds

Meanwhile, Palestinian Nabil Amra, who qualified for the race at the last minute, was one of the last skippers to cross the start line in his Biscay 36 Liberty II. 

Unlike the majority of the fleet which is heading out into the Bay of Biscay in search of stronger winds, he has taken a more southerly route towards Cape Finistere.

Out of the 18 skippers taking part in the Golden Globe Race, one one failed to make it to the start.

Italy’s Francesco Cappelletti is struggling to finish off preparations on his Endurance 35, 007.

The yacht has still to pass safety inspection and Cappelletti has yet to complete 3 days of solo sailing trials. He has until Noon on 7 July 2018 to beat the deadline to join the race.

The leading yachts are expected to reach the first ‘gate’ set off Lanzarote in the Canaries around 11 July to hand across film and letters. The Race is expected to take 9-10 months with the leaders taking between 240-250 days to complete the voyage unaided.

The fastest skipper to complete the 30,000 miles voyage will win a £5,000 cash prize.

The Golden Globe Race yachts are being tracked by satellite, and can be followed at www.goldengloberace.com/livetracker/.