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article imageHigh emotion as Queen Mary 2, four trimarans race to New York

By AFP     Jun 25, 2017 in Travel

Four high-tech trimarans, made purely for racing speed, and the Queen Mary 2, built soley for luxury, set off for New York on Sunday, the centrepiece of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Europe to fight in World War I.

"The Bridge" tests the talents of four leading skippers in a battle of little and large.

Sodebo, skippered by Thomas Coville, Idec, with fellow world record holder Francis Joyon at the helm, Francois Gabart's Macif and Yves le Blevec's Actual are in charge of multi-hulled crafts measuring just 32 metres.

Queen Mary 2, meanwhile, looks down on them from 74m -- the equivalent of 23 floors -- while her 345m from bow to stern stretches by and far beyond them.

The flagship cruiseship of the Cunard line was built at the French port of Saint-Nazaire 13 and a half years ago and returnrd to port on Saturday, saluted by cannon and fireworks.

It was an emotional homecoming in the town of 70,000 people.

In November 2003, 16 people, including children, were killed and 29 injured when a gangway connecting the ship to the docks collapsed just before its maiden voyage.

The victims were remembered on Sunday before the race to the United States got underway in a moving ceremony attended by relatives of the dead.

It was also an event taking place under the tightest security with 400 police on guard.

The Queen Mary 2 sailed away at a speed of 29 knots (around 54 km/h) and is expected to arrive under New York's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Saturday morning after a journey of 3,152 nautical miles (5,837km).

"It's a beautiful symbol of the race," said Coville.

Gabart, the youngest skipper at 34, added: "It's an exceptional opportunity to navigate against each other. There aren't many of us but we are lucky to have the best."

The first problem facing the four skippers is the weather with an anticyclone out in the Atlantic complicating the challenge.

The four trimarans, all with six crew on board, could take a route to the north and arrive in New York in eight days but they risk having to negotiate icebergs.

There is a less dangerous route to the south, but the absence of wind means it will take 10 days before they sight the Statue of Liberty.

It was at the French Atlantic port of Saint Nazaire on June 26, 1917, that 14,750 American soldiers disembarked on their way to the Western Front.

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