It's Going to be Sooooo Close for PlayStation ....

Drama to the end for PlayStation's trans-Atlantic record attempt, by Mark Chisnell

Tuesday August 29th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
There are just 275 nm between PlayStation and the greatest speed record in sailing - Serge Madec's west-to-east trans-Atlantic time. They've got to pass Lizard Point by 07.52 GMT (08.52 local time) on Wednesday. This morning it looked grim, but by 14.00 this afternoon, skipper Steve Fossett was a tiny bit more upbeat, saying 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 7 knots of wind we have now."
This is Fossett's third attempt at the record this year, and his chance is disappearing like a tear in the rain. He's been in touch with Sir Peter Johnson, who heads up the Offshore Passages Committee for the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC). Fossett wanted to know if he could finish anywhere between Lizard and Ushant - which is the start and finish line for the Jules Verne course around the world. Unfortunately, as Sir Peter pointed out, the finish has been the same since 1906 when a cruiser of the Imperial German Navy marked the end of the line - just four miles off the Lizard headland. That's where the WSSRC will be waiting.

The last gasp of the low pressure system - that PlayStation has been tagged onto the back of - is filling and sinking down to the Bay of Biscay. That leaves 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 is about seven or eight knots of north-easterly. PlayStation is currently at just under 50 North, almost the same latitude as the Lizard. That means a north-easterly is almost making the course upwind - you can see why Fossett wants to finish closer to France, so he can crack the sheets on the big cat and get some speed on. The difference in the finishing lines could be crucial - but it may well have been just as crucial to any of the other 20 attempts to beat Madec's awesome record in the last ten years. Rules are rules and Fossett will have to close with the Lizard, like it or not.

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