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Round the world challenge delayed

Wavre (right) presents a scaled-down version of his boat


The start of one of the world's toughest sporting challenges, the Vendée Globe round-the-world sailing race, has been postponed until Tuesday due to bad weather. This year's competition will be the first to involve Swiss sailors.

The race was scheduled to kick off on Sunday.

Geneva's Dominque Wavre and Bernard Stamm are both entered in the gruelling contest which sees one-man boats attempting to circumnavigate the globe without stopping or receiving any external assistance.

Twenty four sailors, including two women, are due to leave the French port of Sables d'Olonnes in what will be the fourth staging of the Vendée Globe. Held roughly every four years since 1989, the event has become known as the "Everest" of one-man sailing.

After crossing the Equator, the competitors will pass the Cape of Good Hope before going clockwise around the Antarctic. They will then come around Chile's Cape Horn and sail across the Atlantic for a planned reunion in Sables d'Olonnes. The whole trip should take about 100 days to complete.

The race organisers will provide weather forecasts and information as to each ship's position, but all repairs and any medical emergencies have to be dealt with by the individual skippers themselves.

The 45-year-old Wavre is thought to be in with a good chance of competing for this year's title. He has already made a practice crossing of the Atlantic and has recently been carrying out trials on his boat's stability in Cherbourg.

"I am among the favourites", Wavre admitted this week, "but I believe there are a dozen people who could beat me."

While Wavre bids to become the first non-Frenchman to make the podium, Stamm is expected to be among the sailors whose priority will be simply to finish the race.

In previous years only half of the competitors have been able to complete the course. The consequences have occasionally been tragic. The last two races have seen a total of three sailors disappearing without trace.

swissinfo with agencies

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