When Steve Fossett and his 10-man crew onboard the 125-foot PlayStation left New York Harbor on October 5, they had one goal in mind, the transatlantic crossing record set 11 years ago by Serge Madecs 90-foot Jet Services V. Many others, including Fossett, have tried unsuccessfully to drop Madecs 6-day mark, but gear failures, submerged objects, and uncooperative weather patterns have foiled the best-laid plans. Yet, on October 9, PlayStation crossed the finish line off The Lizard on Englands south coast. Their 4d:17h:28m:6s crossing easily erased 11 years of failed attempts. In doing so, they also crushed Grant Dalton and Club Meds 24-hour record, raising the bar to 687.17 nautical miles. For Fossett, the 24-hour record was simply the icing on the cake.
“Last time we had a good weather pattern, but it caught up with us,” said Fossett in a telephone interview from Plymouth, England today.
“The problem is that this time of year the storm systems are moving at a pretty good clip across the Atlantic, and we found that the strategy is to go out ahead of a cold front and stay ahead of it along as you can because you’ll get the squalls and windshift when it crosses you. In our last attempt we underestimated the importance of staying ahead of it and didn’t go all out. This time we kept the boat moving and were able to stay ahead of one single front the entire distance.
“It was a southwest wind that we had for the entire distance. It was nice wind strength 25 to 30 knots, actually at times getting above 30, and we were able to maintain proper wind angles and stay exactly on the Great Circle Route. We werent paying any attention to the 24-hour record; we were cheerfully doing sail changes; we even did a gennaker change, which is a lengthy process. We were sailing as if we were going to England, not thinking about maximizing 24 hours. David Scully came to me and said, Steve, should we start thinking about a 24-hour record? And I said, No, lets not. Lets stay focused on the transatlantic. We in fact did nothing different. In retrospect, maybe we should. Maybe we could have hit 700 miles if wed changed our course just a couple of degrees. We could have held back on a sail change if the 24-hour record was our objective.
Fossetts crew for the record attempt was his longtime navigator Stan Honey, Ben Wright (AUS) watch captain, Dave Scully, watch captain, Gino Morrelli, Peter Hogg, Shaun Biddulph, Dave Calvert, Paul Van Dyke, and David Weir.
Once ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, the two records will boost Fossetts total record sailing count to 18. Up next, says Fossett is the six-hour Cowes to St. Malo run currently owned by Tracy Edwards Royal Sun & Alliance. In the meantime, hes headed back to the sky, this time not in a balloon, but in a glider in which he will attempt an altitude record. The current glider record is 49,000 feet, Fossett says his hope is reach 60,000.