Fastnet record Fossett's

But disappointment for the crew and news of an interesting program for the year

Sunday March 17th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
PlayStation - as she is still known, despite this sponsorship having lapsed - has been in the UK since making her historical run across the Atlantic last autumn during which Fossett and his crew pulverised the long standing New York-Lizard record. They then went on to break the records for Round the Island and Cowes-St Malo.

For the last couple of months Scully has been refitting PlayStation out of the water in Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport. Among Scully's jobs has been lightening the boat. Sculy has stripped the boat, even cutting out some of the interior, but also made savings in their approach. "The attitude before was that at sea we want to react to any situation, but the reality is that if you break you're not going to set the record, so you might as well make a pitstop," he says. "So we're now traveling with the minimum of gear, and we're not going to solder on around the world. That philosophy allows us to travel extremely light." Off has come all but the most essential spares.

They are also awaiting a new suit of Cuben fibre sails and will no doubt be keeping their fingers crossed that these survive longer than the ones which failed to make it even to Gibraltar at the start of The Race. Scully says that even fitting the new mainsail should save them a ton of weight.

After some deliberation about the programme for this year, Steve Fossett has finally decided to set the Jules Verne Trophy as his target for next winter and will spend most of this year undergoing an intense program of record breaking on his boat. This will be in addition to another major ballooning trip, this time an attempt to be the first to balloon around the world non-stop singlehanded.

The record program continues in the next fortnight with a record passage from Plymouth to La Rochelle. Then they will progress south to the Med where the Trans-Med record from Marseilles to Carthage beckons. From this point in their programme it is possible that they will lock swords with Tracy Edwards' Maiden II campaign, whose schedule is similar.

They will then return to Cadiz from where they will attempt the 'Route of Discovery' record to Salvador currently held by Club Med. They need to be in the States by June in order for Fossett to undertake his balloon expedition.

Scully says that they will not have another go at the transatlantic record, as they already hold it. However Fossett is currently considering the possibility of making an attempt on Laurent Bourgnon's singlehanded 24 hour record (of 540 miles) en route back to Europe on PlayStation. "The plan is to put the sails up in Newport and catch him as he goes by St John [Newfoundland]," commented Scully. Fossett is an accomplished singlehanded sailor having made numerous passages including the Route du Rhum and across the Pacific, but PlayStation is more than twice the size of the 60ft trimaran Lokata he is used to sailing on his own. Fingers crossed he doesn't have to reef...

PlayStation should be back in the UK in August or September when they will begin training for the Jules Verne Trophy and it will be fascinating to watch how this goes. With a lot of miles under their belt now since PlayStation was launched Scully says they are being increasingly less exploratory and more aggressive in the way they sail the boat. "We're putting our research from the last four years to work for us." This will also be true of the other big cats taking part in the next set of Jules Verne Trophy attempts next year and The Race the year after.

Fossett's program could well be to the benefit of Tracy Edwards' campaign as it may provide the girls with a benchmark to sail against and they have the advantage of having Brian Thompson, formerly PlayStation's chief helmsman, to train them.

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