Boating anniversary

This weekend marks a very fond anniversary for me. It was six years ago that Spirit of Cardiff completed her second transatlantic (setting an unofficial record for the fastest transatlantic in a Rigid Inflatable Boat). Her first transtlantic, if you’ll excuse the digression, was accomplished in 2001, and eight years on we still hold the world record for the fastest powerboat transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point.

But 2003 was all about a homecoming. Despite the name, the boat was built in Portsmouth (home town of her skipper Alan Priddy), and this is where we brought her back as a culmination to some of the most epic adventures. It remains one of the most special days ever for me. We’d met up with a huge flotilla of welcoming boats at the Needles off the Isle of White, and then we entered Portsmouth Harbour in procession. Hundreds of people were waiting to greet us at Gunwharf Quays, and as we arrived, the world-famous Portsmouth field gun crew gave us a six-gun salute. And with the speeches over, we drove the boat round to the Camber, Portsmouth’s historic old port, where the boat was lifted out of the water onto a trailer, and then manhandled along the streets by the field gun crew!

So why the reminiscence now? Well, the fact is that while we technically completed a circumnavigation of the world, what we didn’t do was break the 75 day record set in 1998 by Cable and Wireless Adventurer. And of course that has sort of preyed on our minds. Unfinished business, and all that…

Over the intervening years, the intention was always to come back and have another go. Even while distracted by his hugely successful youth project with Sir Alec Rose’s classic yacht Lively Lady, Alan Priddy has always planned on another crack at the record with another powerboat. And the fact that New Zealander Pete Bethune managed to circumnavigate the world in 61 days last year in Earthrace has sort of concentrated minds even more.

The new boatAfter months of hard work, the boat that’s going to do it has been designed. It’s still a RIB, but unlike anything ever seen before. At 82 feet long but just 10 feet at the widest point, with an aluminium hull and wave-piercing nose, she has been described as akin to a missile. With twin 440 hp diesel engines driving powerful water jets, and a fuel range of over 5,000 miles, we expect to be able to take her around the world with just five fuel stops. That compares rather favourably to the 33 we had with Spirit of Cardiff! It also means we can take a shorter route, instead of beating the living daylights out of ourselves all the way around the North Pacific rim. And for those who chuckled at the descriptions in my book Confronting Poseidon of the rather basic “bucket and chuck it” facilities on Spirit of Cardiff, this boat will even come with its own toilet!

The last year or so has hardly been ideal for raising sponsorship, and while we have commitments to provide a lot of major equipment, we do still need a large wodge of cash to enable the project to go ahead. So the plan is to build the boat at the end of this year, sea trial her next year, ready for an attempt at the circumnavigation in spring 2011. And that sort of sits nicely with our view of media exposure. Unless Gordon surprises us with a snap election in a couple of months, next year will see a General Election, while of course 2012 it will all be Olympics.

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