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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 November, 2004, 13:01 GMT
Vendee Globe race gets under way
French Vendee Globe competitor Marc Thiercelin
The 20-strong Vendee Globe fleet face over 90 days alone at sea
A total of 20 yachts set out on Sunday for the round-the-world Vendee Globe race from Sables d'Olonne, France, in front of a crowd of 300,000.

Eighteen men and two women, including Britain's pre-race favourite Mike Golding, set out on the gruelling three-month event at 1200 GMT.

The last Vendee Globe in 2000-1 was won by Frenchman Michel Desjoyeaux, just ahead of Britain's Ellen MacArthur.

Neither of them is competing this time and the race for glory is wide open.

France's Patrice Carpentier said: "There's a dozen of us who could win, and there are going to be some surprises."

And Roland Jourdain added: "I can't wait for Sunday evening when I'll be far from land."

The route will take the sailors south through the Atlantic Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, through the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, south of Australia and New Zealand, around Cape Horn and back to Sables d'Olonne.

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