Posts Tagged ‘transatlantic’

20 years on, and still a world record

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

In an age when records come and go almost at the blink of an eye, it might come as a surprise to know that the official world record for a powerboat transatlantic has stood unchallenged for 20 years. After all, isn’t this the same record that was challenged by the likes of Richard Branson’s “Virgin Atlantic Challenger II” in 1986, or the Aga Khan’s gas turbine-powered “Destriero” in 1992? Well, not quite. Both boats produced impressive times, but neither operated under the rules of the international governing body of powerboating – the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique).

At the time, the official route for a powerboat transatlantic was New York to Bishop’s Rock in the Scillies, which was indeed the route Branson’s boat took. Except he refuelled at sea, which is forbidden under UIM rules. And while “Destriero” produced impressively fast non-stop crossings in both directions, they weren’t registered with the UIM as record attempts (they were more interested in claiming the Blue Riband, and they failed to meet the rules for that, too.) It all became somewhat academic in 2000, when the UIM changed the finishing post for official powerboat transatlantics from Bishop’s Rock to Lizard Point, at the tip of the Cornish mainland.

It just so happened that “Spirit of Cardiff,” fresh from breaking the fastest port to port record set by the round the world record-holder “Cable & Wireless Adventurer” (Gibraltar to Monaco, October 2000), was being prepared to attack Adventurer’s final two port to port records from New York to the Azores, and Azores to Gibraltar in the spring of 2001. But with the newly changed finishing post for an official powerboat transatlantic, the board had been swept clean. By continuing from Gibraltar to Lizard Point, “Spirit of Cardiff” would be able to claim the official world record, albeit via a somewhat dogleg route.

Things didn’t go quite to plan, but “Spirit of Cardiff” did indeed complete the first official world record transatlantic under the new UIM rules in May 2001 with a time of 248 hours 47 minutes, and the record has stood unchallenged ever since. That transatlantic was the last big trip “Spirit of Cardiff” made before her attempt on the round the world record in 2002. In recognition of holding a major world record for 20 years, “Spirit of Cardiff” transatlantic record-holders Alan Priddy, Jan Falkowski, Steve Lloyd and Clive Tully will be appearing in a series of “On this day” posts on Team Britannia’s Facebook page, including many previously unpublished photos. The story is taken up as “Spirit of Cardiff” is established in New York prior to several weeks of promotion, touring ports along the eastern seaboard of the USA.

“On this day in 2001 – retracing Spirit of Cardiff’s record-setting transatlantic” will commence with its first post on 29th March 2021.

Auction for Nepal

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

The next few weeks will see an Ebay “Auction for Nepal”, for which I hope my donation may raise a little money. It may be just a jacket, but it’s a jacket with “history”. I’ve joined the ranks of famous people from the outdoors world by donating something special to a charity auction to raise money to help the people of Nepal in the wake of the recent devastating earthquakes.

Spirit of Cardiff off the Welsh coast, 2001My special item is the Sprayway Impulse 226 waterproof jacket which I wore on board the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff in 2001 on its world record transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point, a record which has stood unchallenged ever since.

Famous outdoors personalities donating items to the auction include mountaineers Sir Chris Bonington, Doug Scott CBE, Kenton Cool, Alan Hinkes OBE and Rebecca Stephens MBE. Organised by the British Mountaineering Council, the auction will be held on Ebay, raising money for UK charity Community Action Nepal. Founded by Doug Scott, who made the first British ascent of Everest in 1975, CAN has worked in Nepal for many years building schools and health centres, and installing clean water supplies in many of the areas hardest hit by the earthquakes.

The jacket itself is in good condition, and in fact I still use it now and then as I really like it (it’s the bright yellow that does it…) It’ll be a wrench to part with it, but if it can serve a better purpose, it’ll be worth it.

The lucky winner of the charity auction for my transatlantic jacket will also receive a signed copy of my book “Confronting Poseidon”, which tells the story of the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff and its epic voyage around the world in 2002.

Update 29/06/15: The auction went live on Ebay yesterday, running to 5th July. View the auction and bid for a little piece of transatlantic history here!

Cardiff – where’s that?

Friday, September 5th, 2014

With President Obama in Wales this week for the Nato conference, I wonder how it’s being reported back in the USA. Specifically, will the American press actually know where Cardiff and Wales are?

In 2001, I was a member of the crew of the 33ft Rigid Inflatable powerboat Spirit of Cardiff. We’d had the boat shipped over to the USA in order to attempt a record powerboat Transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point. Prior to the trip, we spent three weeks touring up and down the eastern seaboard of the US, promoting the boat, and the attempt which we would make on the global circumnavigation record the following year.

With Cardiff our home port, we’d also been charged by the Welsh Development Agency to gauge whether the Americans knew much about Wales and its capital city. Sadly, all too often, the response was “Wales – is that in England?” We duly reported back that Wales definitely had an awareness problem on the other side of the Atlantic. It was rather reinforced when First Minister Rhodri Morgan made an official visit six months later, and came back with the same message.

But even if the Americans weren’t sure where Cardiff was, the plus side for Alan Priddy, Jan Falkowski, Steve Lloyd and me was that we set a new official UIM world record for a powerboat Transatlantic, celebrated in grand style when we arrived back in Cardiff to be the first boat to pass through the newly opened Cardiff Bay Barrage. And 13 years on, our Transatlantic record has never been challenged!

Boating anniversary

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

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.