Close - but No Cigar

PlayStation fails at the third attempt, by Mark Chisnell

Wednesday August 30th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
After departing last Wednesday on their third trans-Atlantic record attempt, PlayStation finally had to give up at 07.00 GMT on Wednesday 30th August, 2000. With 52 minutes left on the clock, they were still 140 nm from the Lizard. Steve Fossett was brief and to the point in an email from the boat, "Wind pattern is worse. The trans-Atlantic record has gone."
It had been a rollercoaster ride for the Musto-wearing crew, who had started by streaking into a substantial lead on the record pace. They had held that until Monday, but by then they already knew they were in trouble. Fossett had reported from the boat, "The perfect winds are lost. Our dream of a 5-day trans-Atlantic evaporated with 1000 miles to go. We had been sailing ahead of a front with south winds and making outstanding sustained boat speeds. Now the front is catching up and we are having to tack upwind. We are watching our lead on the record pace dwindle away. Now we will have to struggle to make it to the finish within the record time. We really can't tell whether we will share the fate of many other attempts on the trans-Atlantic record and fall short near the end."

With less than 24 hours to go, Fossett still felt there was hope - but not much. At 14.00 on the Tuesday afternoon, he said in an email to Mission Control, "The strategy devised by navigator Stan Honey and meteorologist Bob Rice seems to be working. We are following the decaying low (pressure) and this evening we should cross the sheer line where we hope for slightly better winds, but from a much better angle for boat speed. It's a longshot whether we will make it to the Lizard in time, but we're still in racing mode. We only (sic) need to average 14.5 knots to the finish. That is still a tall order in the seven knots of wind we have now."

The last gasp of the low pressure system - that PlayStation had been tagged onto the back of - was filling and sinking down to the Bay of Biscay. That left nothing but a feeble ridge of high pressure stretching from the Western Approaches to Scotland. The breeze in the Atlantic and on the Channel weather buoys was about seven or eight knots of north-easterly - an almost upwind course. And in the end it was just too much to do, in too little time.

It doesn't now look like they will cross until the Wednesday evening. It will be a bitter disappointment for the 12 man crew, who had sailed ahead of the record for so long. The team includes ex-Whitbread sailors Nick Moloney, Tim Kroeger and Stu Wilson, as well as Brits, Brian Thompson and Tom Weaver and Irish solo Figaro sailor, Damian Foxall. They will all be wondering just what it will take to break Jet Services V ten year old time - 6 days 13 hours 3 mins and 32 secs.

The boat is expected to arrive at Dock Gate 4, Southampton, on Thursday, if anyone fancies having a look.

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