Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TV doc on Virgin Money's Cross-Atlantic Challenge

My TV has about 50 channels on it of which about half are complete rubbish (shopping etc). There is this very useful feature that allows you to select the favourites so you're not always clicking next channel all evening.

However there are some channels were you go.... hmmm..... is it worth including in the list or not? And Virgin One is just such a channel: usually there is nothing worth watching on it.

But its just as well it sneaked in because last night there was this program about Richard Branson's attempt on the trans-Atlantic sailing record back in October 2008. And jolly interesting it was too.

The pic above shows the boat, Virgin Money, which was 99 ft maxi designed by Juan Kuoyoumidjian to beat Mari Cha IV's record of 6 days 17 hours, 39 minutes and 52 seconds. And the skipper was the same as the current record holder, namely Mike Sanderson.

On board was not just the bearded one, but also his grown up kids, who were neither big on sailing but one a doctor (always useful for crew) and the other into arctic adventures or something. Luckily there was also a host of pros including Stan Honey who was one of the brains behind ABN AMRO ONE's victory in the last Volvo.

In addition there was Ben Ainslie: now I'm sure he's a total genius at both the Laser and Finn classes and regatta racing, but its a different ball game to offshore speed racing, so he seemed a bit less at home than usual and got his safety harness wrapped round one of the furling headsails.

It started out rough and got rougher, with wonderfully frank clips of most of the Branson family hurling at one time or other. Richard at least managed to get his head out of the conpanion way to do it on the deck.

There was also a top tip on the right way round to sleep when hurtling through a force 8/9 with 30 feet waves at 40 knots, namely head towards the stern. The thing is when the boat dives into a wave it can decelerate like crazy, at which point you keep going and hit the bulk head and if sleeping head forward, er, well, break your neck.

Worth remembering that.

Of course as we know they failed when their main sail got ripped to pieces and a monster wave washed one of the life rafts away and so there was not enough places for everyone ("Skipper will have to go down with the ship" was the conclusion). Eventually they had to divert to Bermuda.

The reviews of the program in today's papers weren't entirely flattering - see this one. But I think that's a shame: he didn't just try, he put together the right sort of team that included a great boat with some of the world's best offshore sailors, and was prepared to join them out in a force 9 which must have been very cold wet and uncomfortable. And in a boat with a great big Union Jack on its sail.

I hope he gives it another go, and this time has better luck.

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