Velux Blasts Off with a Breakdown The Velux 5 Oceans got off to a grueling start in Bilbao, Spain, on Sunday, as the race’s six solo skippers faced gusts of 45 knots blowing off the country’s craggy eastern shoreline. One particularly strong blast knocked down Hugo Boss, Alex Thompson’s Open 60, and caused a blowout on the boat’s starboard runner winch. “When I tried to put the boat back down again the turn slipped off the runner winch which was sheeting the headsail and it has broken the top of the winch,” said Thompson. Later in the night, Thompson plowed into a large fishing net, causing him to surrender the lead to Bernard Stamm’s Cheminees Poujoulat and Mike Golding’s Ecover. With approximately 12,000 miles to go before the first stop, Fremantle, Australia, the thrills and spills have only just begun. Race coverage at www.velux5oceans.com includes up-to-the-minute position tracking, daily live chats with the skippers, and frequently updated photo galleries. Hot Lava Wows Middle Sea RacersMost of the 68 boats entered in the Rolex Middle Sea Race- a 608-mile spin around Sicily-spent Saturday night in various states of drift, watching lava calmly flow down the slopes of Mt. Etna.Spirit of Jethou navigator Nat Ives commented, “The scenery…was very impressive with a big streak of glowing lava flowing down the side of Etna whilst [we listened] to what we think were bats pinging their echoes off our sails.”The supermaxis Alfa Romeo, Morning Glory, and Thuraya Maximus all slipped through the Strait of Messina well ahead of smaller boats like ABN AMRO ONE, Atalanta II, Chieftain, and Moneypenny, who were left sparring in the narrow, tidal strait. The race ends later this week, with awards given on October 28. For the latest news from the Rolex Middle Sea Race, including position tracking, click here.Visions of Beijing at Pre-Trials West At the three-pronged US Sailing Olympic Pre-Trials West-held in California this past weekend simultaneously in San Diego (49ers), Newport Beach (Finns), and Marina del Rey (Stars)- top Olympic hopefuls set their sights on Beijing, 2008. Morgan Larson came from behind to beat rival Dalton Bergan by one point in the 49ers, Brian Boyd broke a three-way tie for second to win the Finns, and George Szabo won the Star class by 10 points over Andy Horton. For complete results from the Pre-Trials West, click here.US Sailing Embraces Spirit of DemocracyBetween now and November 8, US Sailing members can cast their votes in an online election for the board of directors, which was recently trimmed from 49 members to 14. This is the first time US Sailing has held open elections, and the move reflects the organization’s large-scale restructuring.To view a list of candidates, read platforms, and cast your vote, click here.Pindar Picks a WinnerHot-handed British match racer Ian Williams has just signed on with Pindar, a leading print and electronic media company known for its generous sponsorship of international sailing. Williams currently leads the World Match Racing Tour, having won the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda earlier this month. The 29-year-old’s 14-month deal with Pindar will include re-naming his team to “Team Pindar.” The next World Match Racing Tour event is the Allianz Cup, which starts Tuesday in San Francisco.Made in China, Bound for SydneyIn anticipation of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Australian racer Geoff Ross has commissioned builders in China to construct his latest grand prix yacht. The new Yendys (Sydney spelled backwards) is a 55-foot Reichel/Pugh design; it’s the first grand prix yacht to be built in China. The boat is the result of a joint venture between Australia’s McConaghy Boats and China’s JinLi Composites. In order to reach Sydney by late November, Yendys will travel by barge down the Pearl River Delta to Hong Kong, where it will be shipped to Australia. In the 1999 Sydney-Hobart, Ross won IRC overall handicap honors.