Virgin Money chases Atlantic Record

Sir Richard and Holly Branson on Virgin Money leave USA

The 99ft monohull maxi-yacht Virgin Money set sail this morning on its Cross-Atlantic Challenge. Richard Branson, his children Holly (26) and Sam (23) and the Team Origin crew, which includes Mike Sanderson as co-skipper and triple Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie, aim to break the world record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean, currently set at 6 days 17 hours, 39 minutes and 52 seconds.

Virgin Money set sail from New York and passed the official start line at Ambrose Lighthouse at 04:00 EST (09:00 BST) on 22 October 2008. The yacht will have to make the target of Lizard Point, the most South Westerly point of the UK, no later than 21:39.52 EST on 28 October 2008 to break the record.

Announcing the start of the challenge Sir Richard Branson said: 'I can't quite believe we've decided to leave four hours earlier than planned to ensure we jump in front of a huge storm. The first 24 hours we'll endeavour to out-run a storm and navigate another that could cause major damage to the boat and destroy our chances of breaking the record. We need to navigate these two storm systems perfectly to have any chance of succeeding. It’s going to be a very challenging six days.'

Mike Sanderson, Skipper of Virgin Money commented: 'As always it has been difficult finding a suitable weather window in which to begin the record attempt. Forecasters are predicting the mother of all storm systems, with two storms converging and winds of up to 50 knots. Virgin Money is a very innovative, fast, state-of-the-art yacht and given the right conditions we are confident we could beat the current record we set on Mari Cha IV in 2003 and have a great time with Sir Richard and his family.'

Mike Sanderson and Richard Branson on helm of Virgin Money leave New York
The 99ft monohull yacht Virgin Money (ex-Speedboat owned by Alex Jackson, USA) which can reach speeds of up to 45 knots contains a crew of 25. The crew members will work in 4 hour shifts during the challenge in an attempt to break the record. Richard, Holly, Sam and other crew members will be posting regular blogs charting their progress during the challenge as they attempt to sail into the record books.

Ben Ainslie, Team Origin Helmsman and quadruple Olympic Medallist said: 'I am very excited to be taking part in such an amazing challenge with my crewmates and Sir Richard Branson. We have a fantastic boat and a world-class team of America’s Cup sailors onboard. Although I have competed in the Sydney-Hobart and the Middle Sea Race before, this will be my first Atlantic crossing. I have seen the weather forecast and it looks like it will be a pretty wild ride but I am confident we are up to the challenge.'

Although the boat is power assisted, the crew aim to break the faster non-power assisted record of 6 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds, set by the Mari Cha IV in 2003 to take the title as undisputed king of the Atlantic waves. ‘Leopard of London’ currently holds the power assisted cross-Atlantic record, with a time of 7 days, 19 hours, 20 minutes and 49 seconds.

The yacht includes the latest in nautical design and technology and its manufacture included input from race skipper Mike Sanderson, and Juan Kuoyoumdjian, principal designer at Team Origin, a team that includes Olympic winners Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson.

With the race skipper of Mari Cha IV, Mike Sanderson at the helm and the Virgin Money yacht the pinnacle of nautical design, the race is on to beat the record for the 2925 nautical mile voyage.

VIRGIN MONEY Transatlantic Challenge crew list (25):
 
Mike SandersonNZCo-Skipper
Richard BransonGBRCo-Skipper
Alex JacksonUSAOwner, Co-skipper
Ben AinslieGBRWatch captain, helmsman
Rob GreenhalghGBRHelmsman
Bill ErkelensUSAProject Manager, Runners
Holly BransonGBRCrew, boat medic
Sam BransonGBRCrew
Chris CoulsonUSACrew
Cromwell CoulsonUSACrew
Matthew PritzkerUSACrew
Erle WilliamsNZWatch Captain
Stan HoneyUSANavigator
Julien CressantFRABow
Joey AllenNZBow
Andrew HendersonAUSMid-bow, Systems
Nick BiceAUSPit
Anthony NossiterAUSPit
Matthew MasonNZPit
Robbie NaismithNZTrimmer
Bob WylieAUSTrimmer
Mike MottlAUSTrimmer
Philip WehrheimUSAMainsheet assist
Chris HigginsUSARunners, assist boat captain
Adam BoomeGBRDocumentary Cameraman
 


http://uk.virginmoney.com/challenge