Cowes-St Malo record falls

The mighty PlayStation sweeps up more silverware

Monday December 10th 2001, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Steve Fossett has added yet more silverware to his inventory of sailing records today when he became the first to become a contender for the new Channel Record Trophy.

This is the modern incarnation of the Cowes-St Malo record. While previous records have been set between Cowes and St Malo in northern France, the record is now officially to Dinard (St Malo's neighbouring town) and this new course has been deemed the 'official' cross-channel record.

After their aborted attempt a month ago, Fossett's decision to have another go was made on Sunday night after Steve and his crew were returning from the UNCL awards dinner in Paris.

Fossett's 125ft catamaran PlayStation, crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron line at 08:33:54 GMT this morning. The time to beat for the 138 mile passage was 6 hours 49 minutes and 19 seconds, the record set by Tracy Edwards and the female crew of the catamaran Royal & SunAlliance in October 1997.

Conditions at the start were 10 knots northeasterly winds, with a moderate to choppy sea, a light sea mist and bright winter sunshine. PlayStation was sporting full mainsail and Solent jib. "The wind was moderate at the start" explained crewman David Scully, "but then we caught good winds and paid attention to the slightest shifts ". By the time they arrived off Dinard it was blowing 20 knots from the south east.

At 14:55:48 GMT PlayStation passed the Banchenou buoy, in a time of 6 hours, 21 minutes and 54 seconds, beating Edwards' record by 27 minutes and 25 seconds and covering the passage at 21,68 knots average speed. The time is subject to ratification by the World Speed Sailing Record Council.

"The weather wasn't quite idea, especially at the start when we had a 10 knot northeasterly wind that meant we were slow out of the Solent gybing eight times," commented Fossett. "We only averaged 16 knots for the first hour and so spent the rest of the trip catching up to the record. But the mild sea state and average winds of 18 knots meant it worked out well in the end.

"We had a great and experienced crew, and nearly everyone on board had sailed on a previous PlayStation world record."

PlayStation's 13 crew included Fossett as skipper as well as an interesting variety of crew. Both designers Morrelli and Melvin were on board as were regular crewmen California-based multihull sailor Peter Hogg and BOC Challenge competitor Dave Scully. In place of regular navigator Stan Honey was local Cowes man and former BT skipper Chris Tibbs (UK), while two old PlayStation hands Nick Moloney and Brian Thompson were back on board after carrying out their own adventures this autumn, Moloney on the Transat Jacques Vabre and Thompson in the Mini Transat.

Helena Darvelid, who with Thompson and Scully were among Fossett's original crew on Lakota, was sailing on board as was Scottish multihull sailor Pete Berry and Fossett's former ballooning colleague Andy Elson. Also on board were Shaun Biddulph (UK) and Paul Van Dyke (USA).

On crossing the finish line, PlayStation headed directly back to Southampton, where she is currently based. But on Thursday (13 December) Fossett and the crew will go to the Maritime Museum in Paris, where they will receive various trophies associated with the transatlantic record from New York to Lizard which Fossett and his team broke earlier this year. These include the Jet Services Trophy and the Loic Caradec Trophy while PlayStation's designers Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin will get the Design Trophy from French architest Gilles Ollier.

Fossett and PlayStation now holds three records - the 24 hour record, the west-east transatlantic record and the Channel record.

Unless somebody else breaks the Channel record before 31 December, they will also become the first holders of the new Channel Record Trophy, awarded annually for the fastest Cowes-St Malo course.

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