The record for the greatest distance covered under sail in 24 hours was broken on Saturday March 27th by PlayStation, Steve Fossett’s new maxi-catamaran designed by California-based duo Gino Morelli and Pete Melvin. The boat was launched in December 98 to break records and take part in The Race.

Playstation first attempt had to be halted when skipper Ben Wright severely injured his finger in a block. Having left Auckland for a second attempt on Friday 26th around midday (local time), PlayStation passed the Rangitoto volcano in the Gulf of Hauraki at 1400. Because of the 25 knot North-easterly blowing, progression was slow as far as the Northern end of Great Barrier Island – the starting zone to clear the Northerly tip of New Zealand in this attempt.

With the automatic transmission of their position every 15 minutes by Standard C, weather router Bob Rice estimated that the attempt should be started at around 0600 GMT on Friday March 26th. The steady North-easterly breeze of 25 knots allowed PlayStation to achieve her best average as early as the first 6 hours, or 152.5 miles at 25.4 knots average. Fifteen hours later, the average was 23.8 knots for a distance covered of 357.3 miles.

A slight easing of wind speed slowed the rhythm down for a few hours. The ten crew took advantage to shake out the two reefs which they had been carrying since the start and unroll the Solent jib. Under the thrust of this 676sqm sail, the average speed remained at 20 knots.

In less than 20 hours, PlayStation had covered 465 miles, at an average speed of 23.6 knots and by the 23rd hour, 546 miles, at an average of 23.74 knots. Stan Honey continued to charge at 29 knots until 0630 GMT before putting about for Auckland and home.

This record is not yet official as all the data must be forwarded to the World Speed Sailing Record Council in Britain to be ratified.

Objective 600 miles in 24 hours

This new record, for a yacht almost twice as big as Laurent Bourgnon’s trimaran, will almost certainly be bettered this coming summer. It was the first day with the “foot flat on the boards” for the catamaran, which had remained in port for more than four weeks last February for some minor modifications. The absence of Ben Wright, her skipper and one of Steve Fossett’s best helmsmen was also significant. The objective of PlayStation is now the 600 miles in 24 hours barrier.

Ben Wright who has directed the boat’s preparation since mid December in Auckland, had an accident sustaining injury to his right hand on Thursday 25th March during the first attempt and had to be admitted to hospital.

In charge of navigation for this attempt was Stan Honey, the usual navigator for Roy Disney on Pyewacket. Also on board, Brian Thomson, Peter Hogg, Barry McKay, Greg Yeo, Bruce Sutphen, Kermit Conoway of Southern Spars, Gino Morelli, (the catamaran’s co-designer with Pete Melvin), Mick Cookson, the builder. And naturally owner Steve Fossett.

The record had remained unbeaten since 29th June 1994, with the two amazing consecutive days of 1029 miles by Laurent Bourgnon and his trimaran Primagaz, at the start of his solo Atlantic record.

Only 10 yachts have bettered 500 miles

Before PlayStation, only nine yachts had bettered the mythical 500 mile barrier, in chronological order :

– The catamaran Credit Agricole in 1984 : 508.6 miles (the first before Formule TAG),

– The catamaran Formule Tag in 1984 : 518.68 miles,

– The trimaran Fleury Michon VIII in 1987 : 520 miles,

– The catamaran Jet Services in 1990 : 522.73 miles,

– The trimaran Lyonnaise des Eaux in 1994 : 524.6 miles,

– The catamaran Enza New Zealand in 1994 : 520.9 miles

– The trimaran Primagaz in 1994 : 540 miles (this record still holds in the single handed category. The new record by PlayStation becomes the outright and crewed record).

– The catamaran Explorer in 1995 : 547.3 miles. This record was never ratified in the absence of the boat’s logbook a