Light headwinds forecast for Western Approaches in PlayStation's transat bid

The bid of Steve Fossett and his crew on board the 105ft catamaran PlayStation to break the west to east transatlantic record is now looking in jeopardy, following a change in the forecast weather.

At 1605 GMT today (Monday) Fossett and his 11 man crew were lying at 50deg 41.740N 19 56.070W, approximately 111 hours and 2,250 miles in their voyage between New York and The Lizard. This left them with 551 miles to go to the finish line and 40 hours to get there.

Unfortunately while the team have been putting in a series of 500 mile days, they have now been caught out by a misjudgement in how the weather would unfold. “They were out ahead of a frontal system, with a small low pressure system north east of the front – all of which was forecast.” Bob Rice, PlayStation’s weather router told Yachting World. “The assumption was that it would come up behind them giving them southerlies, in the event it came right over them creating surface wind problems: it went quite light.” The front passed just 30-40 miles too far to the east (or they were 30-40 miles too far west) Rice estimates. “Instead of staying ahead of the frontal system they fell behind it. So at this point it (the record) is still theoretically possible as there are various minor errors in he forecast that could be beneficial.” At the time PlayStation was still making 24-25 knots and heading due east, but Rice thought it likely that the low would sink to the south east, leaving them having to beat towards the finish line. He believes their chances to now be 50/50.

Steve Fossett commented from on board: “Now that we have lost our beautiful transatlantic weather pattern, we’ve had to come up with another plan that provides hope of finishing in time. Meteorologist Bob Rice considered the possibilities and we’ve decide to aim straight at the Low and follow it until it decays in the Bay of Biscay then beat up to the English Channel entrance in very light east winds. Light air at the finish has been the bane of many TransAtlantic record attempts.

“Conditions are tough: Gale force winds and rough seas as we stay tucked in behind the Low. We are reefed to the maximum with no headsail.”

“We had one minor injury last night: Damian Foxall sprained an ankle when he was hit by a wave while crossing the net between the hulls. We wear harnesses and stay clipped on when crossing so a wave won’t pop us over the stern, but the impact of the wave is still enormous. We are consulting by satellite email with Dr Dan Carlin, our team doctor from World Clinic, for the proper treatment.”