With the Volvo Ocean Race beginning in October, Shirley Robertson meets the seven teams taking part in the 12th edition of the toughest race in sailing. For the first time ever, the boats are all exactly the same, which has led to some interesting entries including a chinese team, an all-women's crew and Denmark's first ever entry. The one-design format means the closest ever race and the teams are backed by sponsors from seven different countries.
Five of the boats are competing in the Round Britain and Ireland Race as a final test before the around the world race. MainSail joins them at the start line off the Isle of Wight before heading to Volvo HQ in Spain to follow the race from Mission Control. Shirley is able to talk to the skippers during their race around the British Isles before jetting back to the finish line. MainSail also seeks out the two boats not in this mini-Volvo leg, one still in the boat yard being painted and the other training alone off the Canary Islands. The winner of the Round Britain and Ireland won't necessarily win the Volvo Ocean Race, but it's certainly a chance to lay down a marker before the 39,000-mile, nine-month circumnavigation begins.