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Swiss sailors set off on round the world challenge

Swiss skipper Dominique Wavre (right) bids farewell to another skipper before departing


Twenty-four yachtsmen and women have cast off on one of the world's toughest sporting challenges, the Vendée Globe round-the-world sailing race. This year's competition will be the first to involve Swiss sailors.

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

The sailors, including two women, left the French port of Sables d'Olonnes on Thursday on the fourth staging of the Vendée Globe. The departure had originally been scheduled for last Sunday, but was twice delayed because of bad weather.

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 Antarctica. They will then pass Cape Horn on the southern tip of Chile before sailing across the Atlantic for a planned reunion in Sables d'Olonnes. The whole trip should last about 100 days.

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

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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