Fossett on course for record

As the world's largest racing cat hurtles around the UK

Tuesday October 22nd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
This evening Steve Fossett and his maxi-catamaran PlayStation are just rounding the remote Hebridean outcrop of St Kilda in their bid to break Tracy Edwards and the Maiden 2 team's record for sailing non-stop around the British Isles. The boat has been averaging 23 knots over the last few hours with a southeasterly breeze.

Fossett started the attempt from Ramsgate in the Dover Straights on Sunday afternoon.
By Monday morning the giant cat was racing up the North Sea. Skipper Steve Fossett reported good progress although in the brisk conditions there had been a few problems: "Yes, it's cold. Light rain is almost continuous. After 13 hours we are just under half way to Muckle Flugga lighthouse in the Shetland Islands. This is the most northern point in the British Isles. The North Sea seems to be the crux of this course. We need to position ourselves enough right of course so that we can sail to Muckle Flugga without tacking as the wind backs around in front of us.This would add sailing distance. Then we have the long stretch down the Outer Hebrides and western Ireland. We expect heavy wind conditions."

"So far there have been few problems. A broken winch was readily repaired by the crew, as was a batten problem in the mainsail. Sailing winds have been excellent and at one point we were flying a hull."

"It may be faster to get this huge catamaran up on one hull, but at 125 feet it feels more like a locomotive lifting one side off the tracks."

Later that afternoon they were still more than 100 miles from the famous lighthouse and they had been forced to back off their pace due to a torn Solent jib which the crew were busy repairing. "Earlier this afternoon a 5 foot horizontal tear appeared in the Solent, our most important headsail," commented Fossett. "We are continuing to sail with the much smaller staysail while Dave Scully [watch captain] is leading five of the crew hand-sewing the repair. This is where you need a top flight sailing crew - because making repairs is a key element in sailing distance records. Hope this repair succeeds because we are giving up about 3 knots of boat speed with the staysail."

"Tonight we will approach the Shetland Islands in light upwind conditions. We wanted more wind - but I suppose we should be grateful that we are rounding the top of the course before the gales build in."

After having to sail upwind to round the top of the Shetland, as Fossett predicuted would happen, PlayStation eventually reached Muckle Flugga at 0315GMT this morning and turned onto a southwesterly heading in order to make St Kilda. For this leg conditions on board were much improved as they have been sailing with the wind from astern that is holding a constant 22-27 knots. .

From on board Fossett reported: "The Solent headsail is now repaired, but now we've changed to the even larger Gennikers. Gales are forecast for today!

This is actually desirable for our downwind sailing, so we should be very fast for the
next two days."

"Today's forecast shows good winds until Thursday - but then there are possible headwinds to slow us up when we reach the English Channel. We're hoping this outlook will improve in tomorrow's forecast - just say I prefer yesterday's forecast!"

PlayStation must reach Ramsgate by 08:44 GMT on Friday in order to break Maiden 2's record for the 1790 mile course.

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