The 10th annual Clipper Round The World yacht race set sail yesterday as 12 international crews began the 40,000 nm circumnavigation from the front of Southend Pier.

A cannon was fired by officials from Benfleet Yacht Club to mark the start of the 11-month “ocean odyssey”. Race 1 takes crews on a 5,186 nm trek to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

First over the line was LMAX Exchange, skippered by Olivier Cardin followed by GREAT Britain, skippered by Peter Thornton, and Da Nang Viet Nam, led by Wendy Tuck.

Race Director Justin Taylor said: “It was a good clean downwind start with LMAX Exchange and GREAT Britain well practiced when launching their spinnakers very quickly.

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Qingdao came through very fast too, and is now in third position as a result. I predict they will be off Ushant in the north west corner of France in 60 hours.

Sailing legend and race chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “Watching the crews start their adventure is a very special moment after all the months, and in many cases, years of training and preparation they have undertaken to get to this stage.”

“The challenges that lie ahead are going to test them to their limits physically and mentally, and they are going to need to work as a team to overcome everything Mother Nature will throw at them.”

Day 1 was a day of close-haul acing with the fleet jostling for position. LMAX Exchange lost its spinnaker early, allowing Derry Londonderry Doire to take an early lead until the Margate turn, where GREAT Britain took it on the inside.

LMAX Exchange made a successful comeback though and was leading the race by 0.1nm at 0900 UTC.