British entrepreneur, adventurer and billionaire Richard Branson has accomplished much of what he has set out to do in his 58 years, but this time the bold Atlantic has proved a formidable foe in his attempt to break the trans-Atlantic speed record for a monohull sailboat.
Aboard Virgin Money, a 99-foot Maxi racer and accompanied by his two children, Sam, 23, Holly, 26, and crew of professional racers, Branson aimed to reach Lizard Point off the coast of England in record time. He hoped to beat the current mark of six days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds, held by Mari-Cha IV, Robert Miller’s 140-foot high-tech racing schooner.
Branson and his 25-man crew, which included British Olympic sailing medalist Ben Ainslie, former Mari-Cha IV skipper Mike Sanderson and the boat’s owner Alex Jackson, left New York on October 22. Only about 30 hours into the voyage, the crew of Virgin Money started having problems and ripped the boat’s main sail. Not long after that, the spinnaker exploded and the decision was made to abort the voyage. Virgin Money continued on to Bermuda for repairs.
In comments to the Bermuda press, Branson’s son Sam said, “Records wouldn’t be so prestigious to break if they were easy.” Richard Branson showed disappointment but said, “We won’t give up” as he stepped off the boat in St. George’s, Bermuda. “Next time we’ll go the whole way.
In 1986, Branson smashed the transatlantic speed record for the fastest powered crossing aboard his 72-foot powerboat Virgin Atlantic Challenger II, reaching Bishop Rock off Scilly Isles in England, in three days and eight hours. This was two hours faster than the 1952 record held by the liner SS United States.