Virgin Money and Sir Richard Branson set sail on cross-Atlantic challenge

The 99ft monohull Virgin Money (ex-Speedboat) set sail this morning on its cross-Atlantic challenge. Richard Branson, his children Holly (26) and Sam (23) and the Team Origin crew – including Mike Sanderson and Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie – aim to break the world record of 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 or 09:00 BST today (22 October). The yacht must make Lizard Point, the most South Westerly point of the UK, no later than 21:39.52 EST, or 01:39.52 local time, on 28 October to break the record.

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 added: “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.”

The yacht Virgin Money, which can reach speeds of up to 45 knots, contains a crew of 25. The crew members will work in four hour shifts during the challenge in an attempt to break the record. Richard, Holly, Sam and crew will be posting regular blogs charting their progress during the challenge as they attempt to sail into the record books.

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. ICAP Leopard currently holds the power assisted Cross-Atlantic record.

Virgin Money Transatlantic Challenge crew list (25):

Mike Sanderson NZ Co-Skipper
Richard Branson GBR Co-Skipper
Alex Jackson USA Owner, Co-skipper
Ben Ainslie GBR Watch captain, helmsman
Rob Greenhalgh GBR Helmsman
Bill Erkelens USA Project Manager, Runners
Holly Branson GBR Crew, boat medic
Sam Branson GBR Crew
Chris Coulson USA Crew
Cromwell Coulson USA Crew
Matthew Pritzker USA Crew
Erle Williams NZ Watch Captain
Stan Honey USA Navigator
Julien Cressant FRA Bow
Joey Allen NZ Bow
Andrew Henderson AUS Mid-bow, Systems
Nick Bice AUS Pit
Anthony Nossiter AUS Pit
Matthew Mason NZ Pit
Robbie Naismith NZ Trimmer
Bob Wylie AUS Trimmer
Mike Mottl AUS Trimmer
Philip Wehrheim USA Mainsheet assist
Chris Higgins USA Runners, assist boat captain
Adam Boome GBR Documentary Cameraman