Approaching gales could be the perfect slingshot for Fossett and his crew

A deep low centred over the British Isles: for most of us this is nothing to look forward to. But although it will bring very heavy weather, this is exactly the sort of forecast Steve Fossett and his PlayStation crew have been waiting for, giving favourable conditions for a counter-clockwise record attempt. They set off at 1400 today from Ramsgate, hoping to beat the time set earlier this summer by the Maiden crew of 4d 17h 4m 23s.

According to Sir Peter Johnson of the World Speed Sailing Record Council (WSSRC), the organisation which times and ratifies these records, Fossett is sailing with ‘a mainly American crew including Gino Morelli [one of the boat’s designers] and David Scully. The WSSRC was in intense negotiation with Fossett during Saturday to decide an agreed start point (the rules allow latitude, but the station must be practical for start and finish and personnel are not necessarily available at short notice).

‘The Ramsgate start is important to Fossett because the whole attempt to beat the Maiden 2 time of 4d 17h 4m 23s (and Geronimo 4d 22h 5m 22s) depends on picking up an exact meteorological plan. This hinges on the huge depression with a centre of 965mb which is causing so much difficulty to the Around Alone competitors some 800 miles to the south-west. The big low is forecast to move over England.

‘The Playstation plan appears to be to take the front of it up the North Sea, sweep round the north of the Shetland Isles (61°N) in easterlies of possible Force 9-10, then sweep down the west of Ireland on the back of the depression in strong to gale north-westerlies, with subsequent westerlies in the English Channel to finish.

‘The strength of winds and gales remains to be seen, but one other aspect of the weather is more certain: it will be likely to rain for the entire voyage.’