Posts Tagged ‘Alan Priddy’

Bear visits boat

Friday, April 28th, 2017

It would be nice to say it was a pleasant surprise, but it had actually been on the cards for some time. Even so, when renowned TV adventurer Bear Grylls paid a visit to Team Britannia‘s round the world record-attempting powerboat, under construction at ABC Marine on Hayling Island, it was still a nice boost for the project, making a story in the Portsmouth News. It was quite a coup, too, for Team Britannia’s PR director’s young son Edward. He managed to land a Cubs’ communication badge when he interviewed the Chief Scout on a wide variety of topics.

Team Britannia skipper Alan Priddy had remained in touch with Bear ever since 2003, when Alan, Jan Falkowski and I made a northern crossing of the Atlantic in the round the world RIB Spirit of Cardiff, just ahead of Bear’s own attempt via a similar route in an open RIB. Our crossing was quite a bit quicker (we set the unofficial record for a fastest transatlantic by RIB), but to be fair, we had a cabin and Bear didn’t, and that does make a big difference. And of course it wasn’t us that went on to make TV survival programmes which included the US President!

Needless to say we were delighted to welcome Bear to the boatyard, where apart from seeing the boat, he got to meet some of the injured veterans who will form part of the crew. He was also extremely interested in all of the project’s environmental angles, which include the fuel-saving hull design, the pollution-busting Clean Fuel, and our plan to monitor suspended plastic content in the sea throughout the circumnavigation.

Having an ice time

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

July 2003: Round the world powerboat Spirit of Cardiff south of Cape Farewell, Greenland. We’re hove to, deciding on our best course of action – the wind is blowing Force 11, and we’ve seen growlers in the water. These chunks of clear ice, some of them the size of cars, are very difficult to spot until you’re virtually on top of them. Having one come through the windscreen would definitely have spoiled our day. While we’re sloshing about in the swell, I nip outside with the camera and narrowly avoid taking a swim. In the end we retreat to our refuelling point at Nanortalik and wait two days for the storm to pass. Even so, we still set an unofficial record for the fastest transatlantic in a RIB.

Read all about it in Memoirs of a Record-Breaker: Ocean adventures on the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff 1999 – 2003.

Hog roast in action

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

When Team Britannia‘s round the world superboat was turned right side up – once described to me as “like a giant hog roast” – at the beginning of December, we had no shortage of still photographs showing the hull at different angles through its 180 degree turn until she was resting on blocks looking much more like a boat. But this recently released video conveys something more of the drama and tension of the day – a day with one or two moments where it looked as though things could have gone horribly wrong. But the professionalism of the skilled workers at the Aluminium Boatbuilding Company shone throughout.

Since my last post about the project, team boss Alan Priddy has also confirmed that the round the world attempt will now take place in October 2017. A variety of technical problems have contributed to delays so far, and after the boat was turned, a couple more came to light which have since been rectified. But that, combined with the Christmas break has meant we would be pushed to be ready to go in the spring weather window. At the very least, if we went at the tail end of it, we would be looking at a bumpier and therefore slower circumnavigation – not what we want at all!

With the boat not far from completion, we’re still hopeful of getting her in the water by the end of March or early April, and sea trials including a couple of world record runs before basing her in Gibraltar.

One good turn

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Monday 5th December was quite literally a pivotal moment for Team Britannia. It was the day the hull of the round the world superboat was finally turned right side up. Since construction began in June at the Aluminium Boatbuilding Company on Hayling Island, the internal framework and hull plates had all been assembled with the boat upside down, purely because it makes the job a lot easier, with gravity lending a helping hand as well. With all the continuous welding completed, the lower part of the hull was sanded down and given a coat of primer.

The actual process of turning the boat was painstaking, and took a whole day. The boat had already had parts welded on at bow and stern to support it during its rotation, held up at the bow by an “A” frame, and at the stern, suspended from a crane. But before the “giant hog roast” took place, the upside down hull had to be jacked up on wooden blocks before the crane took over. Team Britannia boss Alan Priddy admitted to one or two nervous flutters during the operation, but was delighted with the outcome.

With the boat finally the right way up, one gets a much better appreciation of its size, and that’s still without the wheelhouse, which has been assembled in the unit next door. Apart from craning the wheelhouse and fore and aft decks into place, the internal fit-out will be preceded by fitting the six massive fuel tanks, the engines and jet drives.

Gibraltar charity fundraiser

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

The end of last month should have seen Team Britannia set off from Gibraltar on our bid to break the 60 days 23 hours 49 minutes record for circumnavigating the world by powerboat. After a week of festivities in Gibraltar, we’d planned on holding a gala dinner on board the five-star Sunborn floating hotel the night before our departure. Of course, we could have just cancelled everything, but we decided to get something positive out of our delay.

So the two days of Thundercats powerboat racing went ahead, along with a music festival. Instead of the gala dinner, we held a champagne and canapés reception on board the Sunborn, and we turned the event into a charity fundraiser benefiting our chosen charity Blesma, and Gibraltar’s Calpe House Trust, which provides a home from home in London for any Gibraltarians who have to visit for medical treatment.

Earlier in the week, some of our team had met crew members from the Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond, in port in Gibraltar after two months in the Mediterranean. They were lucky enough to be invited aboard for a tour of the ship, which included looking at things team photographer Chris Davies wasn’t allowed to take pictures of! The courtesy was returned when Commander Marcus Hember and a sizeable proportion of his crew came to our reception, looking fantastic in their Number One dress uniforms and medals. The charity auction was pretty amazing, too, raising over £15,000 to be divided between the two charities.

My “day off” in Gibraltar saw me taking a little hike – first to the nature reserve on the Upper Rock, then to the top of the cable car station. It was here whilst photographing one of the famous Barbary macaques that another jumped up at me and scratched my arm. Had it bitten me, it would have entailed a trip to Gibraltar’s hospital, but I managed to escape that. And while the tourist areas such as St Michael’s Cave see queues of taxis and tour buses, I managed to avoid them on a delightful footpath taking me down to Jews’ Gate Cemetery, a recently renovated historic burial ground. Past the Pillars of Hercules and I had the wind in my sails, so I carried on south to Europa Point, whose Trinity House lighthouse will be Excalibur’s timing mark when we do eventually set off around the world next year.

Around the world in 2017

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

You’ll probably have gathered from previous blog posts that things were getting tight with the construction of Team Britannia’s round the world superboat, but we were still moving heaven and earth to get the boat finished in time for our planned departure from Gibraltar on 23rd October. We’d already eaten into a lot of our contingency time when we discovered last week that a couple of hull plates needed re-cutting. As we’ve found previously, the place in Southampton that does this is extremely busy, and there’s now no chance of getting the new plates for several weeks.

So Alan Priddy made the only logical decision to postpone the trip. The most favourable times to attempt a circumnavigation of the world are spring or autumn, and after our meteorologist in Gibraltar analysed 10 years-worth of weather data, our revised departure date is Sunday 12th March 2017.

In the meantime, we expect the boat to be in the water by the end of November, which means we’ll have the time we always wanted to complete full sea trials, which now may include a record run around Britain. There’s a good chance, too, that we will be able to display the boat at the London Boat Show in January. Yes, it’s a disappointment to have another delay, but bearing in mind that by the time we do the trip, this project will have been on the go for eight years, it’s not too desperate a burden. At least this time we actually have a boat!

Team Britannia – nearly there!

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Followers of Team Britannia will doubtless have noticed that while we were booked for the round the world superboat Excalibur to make her first public appearance at the Southampton Boat Show, we didn’t quite get there. We moved heaven and earth to get the boat finished in time, but an accumulation of delays during her construction got in the way. But in a sense, they were all a good thing.

The fact that the boat is intended to take passengers throughout its life means it has to be built to a commercial coding, which means every major stage of the construction had to be signed off by an independent surveyor, along with any changes in design. They included welding 1,560 additional small reinforcing plates not in the original design, one at every point where a stringer crossed a frame. Agreed between project boss Alan Priddy, the boatbuilders and surveyor, it was a time-consuming job, but proved that there’s no cutting corners when it comes to safety.

We also ended up having the aluminium for the wheelhouse cut and preliminary welding done in the Netherlands to save time, with the parts shipped in a giant kit form to ABC Marine on Hayling Island to assemble in a shed next to the one containing the hull. Since the beginning of this month, the boatyard has been operating pretty much 24 hours a day. So we may have missed the Southampton Boat Show, we’ll most likely miss the Monaco Yacht Show at the end of September, but we will be OK to set off from Gibraltar around the world on 23rd October. If it all sounds a bit last minute, bear in mind that in 1998, Cable and Wireless Adventurer set off on her record-setting circumnavigation of the world pretty much straight from the boatyard.

There’s an awful lot more still to do to prepare for this momentous voyage, but once we get the boat to Gibraltar in mid-October, we’ll have plenty of time for any fine-tuning. But for now, with just over a month to go, I’m starting to feel the weight of the hand of destiny on my shoulder!

 

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Team Britannia update

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Last week saw me pay another lightning visit to the Team Britannia boatyard on Hayling Island, where the round the world powerboat is progressing well with its construction. Speaking to several of the men working on her, I was struck with the care and pride which they take in what they’re doing.

A lot more metalwork has been added since my last visit, with all the stringers in place, and the keel fully built up. Hull plating is imminent, and the boat will be turned over by the end of the month. The wheelhouse is being built separately, and will then be added along with the decking.

At that point, activity ramps up somewhat, with 24 hour working to get the boat fitted out. The enormous fuel tanks have been delivered – all six tanks have a combined capacity to equal your average road fuel tanker – and the engines and jets are ready and waiting. The next few weeks will be hectic, without a doubt, but we’re getting there.

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Boatyard Bulletin

Friday, July 15th, 2016

I’ve been posting photos of the Team Britannia round the world powerboat on Facebook and Twitter ever since construction began at the Aluminium Boatbuilding Company, but I’ve only very recently clapped eyes on her myself for the first time. And despite seeing pictures including people to provide a sense of scale, nothing quite prepares you for the imposing size. Obviously some of that may go when she’s right side up and in the water, but of course there isn’t a wheelhouse on top of it all yet. You also get a much better sense for the intricate detail in which the different parts are shaped, complete with printed markings and numbers which correspond to what’s on the engineering drawings. It’s a bit like a giant Airfix kit!

With all the frames in place ready for stringers and hull plates to be added, I’d noticed the spot welds holding things together. “Everything is just tacked together for the moment,” explained ABC’s Colin Johnson. “When all the metalwork is in place, we run the continuous welding. That’s what makes the boat watertight, and also gives it tremendous strength.”

The way the continuous welding is performed is also meticulously planned. It generates a lot of heat – enough to cause the aluminium to warp. They know which way any likely movement is going to go, and so they’ll work it to weld one section, then follow up in the spot most likely to produce the opposite movement to cancel it out. We’re talking small here, by the way, so don’t expect to see ripples down the boat! ABC have already said they aim to make this their best boat ever, so for them, nothing short of perfection will do.

Team Britannia – getting busier!

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

The first half of June has seen things move very rapidly for Team Britannia on the boat-building front. From the start of cutting the 12.5 kilometres of aluminium framing, it was just a week later when the first sections were assembled into the jig on which the boat is being constructed. The media turned out to see what was going on, including That’s Solent TV.

Team Britannia at the House of CommonsTuesday 14th June saw Team Britannia gather for the evening in the House of Commons with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gibraltar, hosted by Jack Lopresti MP. It gave Alan Priddy the opportunity to brief MPs and other guests on the round the world challenge, the importance of Clean Fuel and our tie up with the Royal Foundation Endeavour Fund – not forgetting the crucial role played by Gibraltar. It was a great opportunity, too, to present newest crew member Daisy Coleman with her team shirt.

Oak-panelled splendour and historic works of art in the Jubilee Room provided a wonderful setting for the event. The photo shows the guests, with me having just enjoyed a chat with Colonel Bob Stewart DSO MP.