Excitement and tension build as fleet prepares to leave Les Sables

The Vendée Globe starts today at 1202 (all times GMT). The first yacht will slip her mooring at 0815 and will be followed at four minute intervals by the rest of the fleet. Thirty boats, four minutes each, that’s two hours before the village is emptied of its most famous residents.

The fleet will head out of Port Olona and down the half-mile long, narrow Chenal, with the cheers of hundreds of thousands of wellwishers ringing around them, creating memories that will never die. Once clear of Les Sables, they head southeast along the coast to the start box whose easterly extremity, the Roches du Joanne safe water mark, is about a mile off Bourgenay.

The forecast is grim, with 25-35 knots expected in the first 24 hours. The strength of the wind, size of the fleet and enthusiasm of the spectators gave rise yesterday to talk of postponement, fearing collision, but the schedule this morning holds.

The first four boats to leave are Aviva, BT, Hugo Boss and Ecover 3. Artemis leaves 15th, Pindar 16th, Toe in the Water 21st and Roxy 26th.

Vendée Globe website