It's finally here – the official start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 takes place on Sunday afternoon at 14:00 local time in Alicante, Spain (12:00 UTC).
And after some short course racing off the beachfront of Alicante, the seven crews will depart on the first leg of a 45,000 nautical mile race around the world.
The race opens with a sprint (relatively speaking) from Alicante to Lisbon for Leg 1. It's going to be 1,450nm of flat out action, with the teams fighting for every inch as they aim to get some points on the board early on.
“After all the build-up, at last we are ready to race,” said Xabi Fernández, the skipper of the hometown MAPFRE. “We are looking forward to getting into the rhythm of the race.”
Conditions at start time in Alicante (12:00 UTC), 14:00 local, are forecast to be moderate, with weather models suggesting Easterly winds of 7 to 15 knots. This is somewhat lighter than forecast earlier in the week. Nonetheless, the favourable direction means the fleet will make good progress off the starting line.
After 12 hours of racing, the fleet will be sailing fully downwind and should be gybing in towards Cabo de Gata to benefit from acceleration and bend in the wind at the headland.
Twenty four hours into the race and teams will be lining up for the Gibraltar Strait, the Rock of Gibraltar looming on the western horizon. As teams file into the narrow strait, wind strength could double from 14 to up to 30 knots, leading to frantic sail changes as teams negotiate accelerating wind, choppy waters and one of the world's busiest shipping channels all at the same time.
On Tuesday, 48 hours after the start, the sleigh ride comes to an end at the end of the acceleration zone and the fleet will be required to negotiate a ridge of high pressure, and its associated light winds, continuing onwards.
Where to from there? Race Director Phil Lawrence has reserved the right to lengthen the route with additional waypoints, if necessary, in order to secure an on-time arrival into Lisbon for the weekend.
Follow Leg 1 live on the website: www.volvooceanrace.com