Countdown to Portimão Global Ocean Race start

Nico Budel, oldest competitor at age 69. Portimao Global Ocean Race 2008

The countdown clock to the start of the inaugural Portimão Global Ocean Race is in hours now, not days, and things along the dock in Portimão seem reasonably relaxed given the enormity of the task that lies ahead.

Shore teams are running around picking up last minute supplies, stocking fresh goods that will last for a few days and ticking off important items like toilet paper and matches. The light will soon fade here and a few boats will burn the midnight oil, but by and large the fleet is ready to go.

'Everything’s good on board,' said Belgium sailor Michel Kleinjans. 'I said I would be ready for the start and I’ll be ready just as long as everything doesn’t fly around my ears in the first 24 hours, it will all be fine.' On the neighbouring pontoon, South African brothers Lenjohn and Peter Van Der Wel are in excellent form and working hard to complete the job list on Class 40, Kazimir Partners. When asked by a race official whether he had a pre-race wish list, Lenjohn’s reply was instantaneous: 'Oh yes. A silver Porsche 911 and an extra 20 feet of boat length!'

It has not been all hard work. Yesterday the skippers were presented to the mayor of Portimão, Manuel de Luz, in a formal ceremony at City Hall followed by a glittering send-off party at the Tivoli Marina Portimão hotel. As the setting sun painted the cliffs across the Arade River a burnt orange, floodlights lit the boats arranged in front of the Pearl Restaurant while guests and local dignitaries enjoyed drinks and canapes.

Race Communications Director Brian Hancock officially started the party with a short introduction: 'We are very honoured to have the beautiful city of Portimão as the race base,' he told the assembled guests. 'Portimão is certainly a jewel of Portugal,' he continued. 'And I know that Portimão has a dream, a wish to continue bringing high-profile sporting events to this immensely attractive city. On behalf of the Portimão Global Ocean Race, I can assure the people of Portimão that we could not wish for a better location and environment for our event.' In response, Portimão’s Deputy Mayor, Luis Carito, took centre stage: 'This is a party to say goodbye to the competitors,' explained Carito. 'However, we will be watching you race around the world and we’ll be waiting for you to come back next year. We are very proud to support this race and I want to wish you all the best of luck.'

The race gets underway at 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT) Sunday, October 12. Race website - www.portimaorace.com