Steve Fossett’s PlayStation is to line up against the young pretender Club Med skippered by Grant Dalton and Bruno Peyron to make an attempt on the tricky west to east transatlantic record between Ambrose Light, New York and the Lizard.
That PlayStation and Club Med will be racing is particularly interesting as it is the first time that two boats of the new generation of super fast and super big multihulls built for The Race have competed against one another. It is also the best chance yet that one of the most resolutely unbroken records in sailing, may be cracked finally.
The W-E transatlantic record has remained unbeaten for 10 years since it was set by Serge Madec and his crew on board the 75ft catamaran Jet Services V in May 1990. Their time was 6 days, 13 hours, 3 minutes and 32 seconds for the 2,925 mile passage. The record is also one of the most historic. It was a favorite of the great ocean liners, but the most momentous time for the crossing was that of Charlie Barr on board the giant schooner Atlantic in 1905.
Since setting a new record transatlantic east to west from Cadiz to San Salvador in the Bahamas and more importantly demolishing PlayStation‘s record for the maximum number of miles sailed in a 24 hour period, Club Med has been in Newport undergoing a technical pit stop. The crew along with designer Gilles Ollier and representatives from his Chantier Multiplast where the boat was built, have carried out a thorough check-up of the boat: boom, mast, deck gear, sails – leaving nothing to chance in the catamaran’s preparation for the record.
Fourteen men will be on board. Once again Grant Dalton will be teaming up for the record with The Race organiser and leading catamaran sailor Bruno Peyron. The rest of the crew will comprise navigator Mike Quilter (NZL), Ed Danby (NZL), Neal Mac Donald (GBR), Bobby Campbell (USA), Jason Carrington (GBR), Jacques Caraës (FRA), Nicolas Pichelin (FRA), Guillermo Altadill (ESP) and Jan Dekker (RSA). Crewmen Fred Le Peutrec and Hervé Jan have sailing commitments in the Quebec-Saint Malo race and for the record will be replaced by two crew who are yet to be confirmed. As for the 12th place, it will occupied by Club Med CEO, Philippe Bourguignon himself. Previously Bourguignon has sailed with Bruno Peyron on board Explorer during the Cowes-St Malo record passage in August 1996.
While the team on Club Med still have the smell of success in their nostrils, Steve Fossett and his crew on board PlayStation have the adavantage of having made two attempts on this record before.
“This is very exciting – and we relish the chance to race Club Med. Of course there is always a risk of losing – and we don’t like losing! But we have to race to find out,” said Fossett, adding that the boats will only line up with one another if it looks like record breaking conditions. “We’ve had two attempts on the Transat so far – but both times weather conditions turned out to be not good enough. This will be our last chance for a Transat record this season, so PlayStation is committed to go next week only if it is a record possibility. If Club Med decide to leave on a non-record/delivery because of schedule commitments, we’ll have to wait for a better weather picture.”
Fossett has recently reacquired the services of meteorologist Bob Rice to work with him. Apart from working with the New Zealand America’s Cup team and with he and Richard Branson on many of their ballooning attempts, Rice has routed most of the record breaking boats on the Jules Verne Trophy and is a hugely valuable card in Fossett’s hand. Rice has identified a possible record weather pattern for departure this Wednesday or Thursday (July 26-27).
Weather conditions are normally crutial to record attempts, particularly ones as tough as this one, although the outstanding pace of the giant cats may compensate if wi Club Med and PlayStation to meet head on in W-E transatlantic record clash