Seven yachts set off on Thursday for a trip from New York to England on the next leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The yachts were headed for Portsmouth, England, after a two-day pit stop in New York Harbor. Hundreds of spectators lined a stretch of lower Manhattan to watch the competitors sail out past the Statue of Liberty at the start of the trip.
Mike Sanderson, skipper of the first place ABN AMRO ONE, was confident about his chances on the trip.
One yacht was to take off two hours after the rest: Movistar, the Spanish entry, was penalized after the crew needed help in repairing damage suffered on the leg from Annapolis, Maryland, to New York. Under the race rules, the seven yachts faced a penalty if they required new gear or supplies during the Manhattan stopover.
The US yacht Pirates of the Caribbean, was in second place heading into the next leg. Skipper Paul Cayard said the New York stopover was reinvigorating for his crew.
"This is our hometown, our home port, and it's been fantastic being here," Cayard said. "It was a special little bonus here for us to move up in the standings and be second overall. We'll try to keep that position and keep driving along."
Both Cayard and Sanderson were aware of forecasts predicting poor weather by Thursday night.
Before the yachts returned to their seven-month race, the Reverend James Cooper of historic Trinity Church in lower Manhattan blessed each one and wished the crews "Godspeed."
But speed isn't necessarily the most important thing in a race that won't end until next month in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The seven yachts have already made stops in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. So far, the sailors have endured icebergs, gusting winds and towering waves. Several have suffered injuries, from a broken hand to bad backs.
Racing started to determines which boat will challenge America's Cup holder Alinghi.
US entry BMW Oracle beat Team Shosholoza of South Africa in the first leg, and then edged Victory Challenge of Sweden in the second.
Alinghi, Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand also won both their races.
"The first day racing in 2006 was a fun day for all the teams, with relatively light but challenging wind conditions," said Peter Isler, navigator aboard BMW Oracle. "I've been here since February and it reminds me a lot of Southern California."
Luna Rossa beat China Team, while the New Zealanders sped past United Internet Team Germany in the first leg.
Desafio Espanol of Spain sailed well against Alinghi but couldn't hang on as Ed Baird, the American helmsman aboard the Swiss boat, found a better breeze.
In the second leg, the Spanish boat beat +39 Challenge of Italy.
On the Net: www.americascup.com