Posts Tagged ‘world record’

Coming soon to an ocean near you

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

I’m rather mindful of the fact that recent progress updates on Team Britannia’s round the world powerboat project have been largely the same: “By the time you read this, Excalibur will be afloat.” And then of course it isn’t. And while completion of the boat has not been without its delays due simply to the fact that we’re building a one-off which departs from the norm in both design and construction, the bottom line has been – as you might expect – money. Fortunately we have a lot of supporters who’ve maintained faith in the project, and while lean times have forced us to suspend building operations every so often, it has only ever been temporary.

A summer resumption of activity in the boatyard has seen the hull and wheelhouse finished off, with just the transom to fit to make the boat watertight. Then comes the exciting part where the boat is wrapped – bright red for her topsides, and black below the waterline using a special hydrophobic antifoul material. We’ve also hosted a number of open days this year to which members of the public, supporters and partners were invited, and they’ve been well attended – even when the weather hasn’t been up to much. But the reaction from everyone that sees Excalibur for the first time is pretty much the same: “Wow, it’s big!” And visitors with boating or engineering backgrounds all remark upon the quality of the construction and attention to detail.

We’ve also made it easier for people to become involved by launching a competition on our website, with two crew places per round the world record leg as main prizes, and short trips out in the boat for runners-up. And even if the idea of a trip on the boat seems less than appealing, each entry is rewarded with 25 shares in Clean Fuel Ltd. Their pollution-busting technology forms a cornerstone of the entire project, and has the potential to clean up internal combustion engines without any mechanical modifications, so everyone’s a winner. Once Excalibur is in the water and operating from her base in Gibraltar, with a projected attempt in 2020, that round the world record may finally be on its way back to Britain.

Win with Team Britannia

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

My last visit to Team Britannia‘s round the world powerboat Excalibur at her boatyard was back in January, when the weather was somewhat icy. The latest open day at the end of March saw rather more pleasant conditions, and a great turnout of visitors. It’s always interesting to get people’s impressions, particularly from those who have followed the project closely, but only previously seen photographs. Everyone remarks on the size of the boat, something which photographs of her in the cramped boat shed really can’t convey.

Apart from giving visitors a guided tour around the boat, we also used the open day to launch a new facet to the project, something which has consumed a fair amount of time over the last few weeks. We now have a prize competition, with a £25 ticket potentially winning a place in the crew for one of the legs around the world, with a hundred other prizes of short trips out in the boat after the circumnavigation.

And while you might think the odds of winning such a special prize are slim, the truth is that everyone is a winner, as each entry also gets 25 shares in Clean Fuel Ltd, whose pollution-busting fuel will power Excalibur around the world. In fact, if you’re interested in combating the Nitrous Oxides and Particulate Matter which form the awful traffic-generated pollution in our towns and cities, your support for Team Britannia and Clean Fuel will make a big difference.

Progress at the boatyard

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

This photo of Team Britannia‘s round the world powerboat Excalibur caused a bit of a stir when it first appeared on Facebook. Was it Halloween? Evidence of Excalibur’s sharp edge? In fact it’s a special red dye used by our boatbuilders to check the quality of the welds, here along the position of two bulkheads.

And while the views inside the hull, steadily filling up with fuel tanks and bulkheads, look impressive, this above-deck shot with crew member Steve Mason standing through the deck on top of one of the forward fuel tanks conveys the real scale of the boat. It’s going to look even bigger when the wheelhouse and inflatable tubes are in place!

Round the world powerboat

Monday, August 4th, 2014

I haven’t posted anything about the round the world powerboat project for some time, because there hasn’t been anything to say. We did have a close shave earlier on this year when we thought we finally had funding for the project, but while the people themselves were very nice, it wasn’t the right deal for us. Since then, project leader Alan Priddy has been extremely busy with a string of negotiations, culminating with some good news.

At long last we have a main backer, which means it won’t be too long before we start building our amazing Professor Bob Cripps designed boat. I can’t tell you the name of the backer at the moment, because they won’t be announcing it themselves for a few weeks. And with a six month building programme, it does mean we’re not going to make a spring 2015 attempt on the record, so it has to shift back to November next year. On the plus side, it will allow extra time for sea trials and ironing out any wrinkles before the world record trip.

Hopefully the build will have already started by the time our backers make their announcement, and then the updates will be coming thick and fast. In the meantime, if you want to join us on this momentous voyage, you can do so via Faceboat.

Confronting Poseidon

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Twelve years ago on the 7th April, I set off from Gibraltar with Alan Priddy into the Mediterranean on the 33ft powerboat Spirit of Cardiff. It was an attempt to break what was then the 75 day record for circumnavigating the world. It turned into an epic voyage over three months, with the first major problem hitting us (quite literally) at the end of the very first leg of the trip. We made a night approach into Valletta in Malta, and ran into an unlit and unmapped fish farm. From there, we experienced shocking corruption as we made our transit of the Suez Canal, and our first encounters with pirates at the southern end of the Red Sea, and again in the Gulf of Aden.

We had numerous mechanical problems. Apart from replacing a £30,000 gearbox and outdrive in Malta as a result of the tangle with the fish farm, we had to have a further two replacements as a result of burning out the clutches – a consequence of overheating through running 24 hours a day in tropical conditions with low grade fuel. And I’ll never forget our night arrival at Galle harbour in Sri Lanka, where my calling across to a guy on a nearby boat resulted in him unslinging his AK47 and aiming it directly at me. It’s a strange sensation looking down the barrel of a gun when you know the safety catch is off! Then there was the moment we arrived at a port in the far east of Russia to be placed under “house arrest” the moment we tied up.

Needless to say we didn’t break the record for circumnavigating the world, but we did have the most incredible adventure trying. It made for a pretty good TV documentary, and an even better book. “Confronting Poseidon” was released last year on Amazon Kindle – when it was published in print in 2002, it was hailed as a major contribution to marine journalism, and was nominated for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award 2003. I know quite a few people who found it so difficult to put down they had to read it in one long sitting – sometimes throughout the night. That’s quite a compliment for me, and quite a recommendation for anyone else looking to read about the first major maritime adventure of this century.

Alan Priddy and I will be making another attempt on the fastest ever circumnavigation of the world by sea in the not too distant future. Hopefully the trip won’t be as eventful as the one we did in 2002, but you never know! In the meantime, read about my epic voyage around the world on Spirit of Cardiff in “Confronting Poseidon”. Click here to download your copy.

Memoirs of a Record-Breaker

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

My portfolio of Kindle publications has been added to with another book about the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff. And while my books “Confronting Poseidon” and “Blogging all over the world” might best be regarded as concentrating on the actual experience of round the world powerboating, “Memoirs of a Record-Breaker” reminds us that Spirit of Cardiff actually amassed more official UIM world records than any other boat in history.

Told through five full-length features originally written for newspapers and magazines, it traces the three attempts at the Round British Isles record, the 2001 New York to Lizard Point transatlantic (the record for which still stands, 12 years on), around the world in 2002, and the final transatlantic in 2003 which set an unofficial record for the fastest ever transatlantic in a RIB (which came after the events covered in “Confronting Poseidon”).

On sale in Amazon UK for a miserly 77p, “Memoirs of a Record-Breaker” makes perfect reading for anyone interested in boating, adventure, or indeed those who appreciate the philosophy of never giving up!

Now it’s more than just a record

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Regular readers of my blog will know that back in May, the factory where Alan Priddy’s round the world superboat Accomplish More is being built was attacked by arsonists. The unit next to the one housing the boat was completely gutted, but at the time, we were led to believe that the boat itself had sustained no damage, and that therefore we could carry on with the construction. It was while the main fuel tank was being tested that Alan’s suspicions were aroused, and after a metallurgy inspection, it was confirmed that parts of the hull had lost up to 50% of its strength as a result of heating during the fire.

The news came as a real kick in the teeth, but the only option available to us was to scrap the boat and start again. With no further capacity at Micklewrights in Dudley, we had to look elsewhere for a boat-builder up to the task, and were fortunate to find ABC Marine on Hayling Island, conveniently just around the corner from Alan Priddy’s base of operations in Portsmouth. They specialise in building aluminium support boats for the offshore wind industry, and with considerably more manpower than we had in Dudley, they’ve said they can produce the hull and wheelhouse in an astonishing 12 weeks. We’ll still be doing the interior fit-out ourselves as originally planned, but the boat will now be scheduled to be in the water by Easter next year.

Of course, the original plan was for us to attempt the round the world record last year, and then as the schedule slipped, this year. We’d known about another planned attempt on the circumnavigation record by the American Ocean’s Quest team for some time, and we’ve been in contact with them over the last few months. Now they’ve challenged us to a race, and we’ve accepted! There’s still an awful lot of detail to sort out, not least another tier of sponsorship to cover the race organisation, but as it stands, the race between Britain and America will begin in November 2013.

It will be the first time ever that a powerboat race around the world has taken place (the current and previous record-holders simply raced against the clock), so without wishing to sound over-dramatic, what we are going to do is definitely one for the history books. And of course, we still aim to bring the circumnavigation world record back to Britain!

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Half a billion viewers – is that enough?

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Apart from bringing the crew of Alan Priddy’s superboat together for the first time, the 2011 London Boat Show was the scene of a couple of useful meetings – one with a photo press agency specialising in boating matters. When British yachtswoman Dee Caffari became the first woman to successfully complete a solo, non-stop circumnavigation both ways around the world, they put her on the front page of every UK newspaper. They seem to think they can do the same for us.

And we also talked over TV coverage with the company that puts out the weekly motorsport programmes “Motorsport Mundial”, “Planet Speed” and “Max Power” to 27 million households in the UK and Ireland. Oh, and over half a billion households worldwide. They’ve promised us coverage not just for the duration of the Circumnavigation challenge itself, but in the run-up – including the building of the boat, and the test run, which will most likely take on the Transatlantic world record set by Alan Priddy, Steve Lloyd, Jan Falkowski and me 10 years ago in Spirit of Cardiff.

We’ll be looking at getting news coverage as well, and hopefully a documentary to tell the story afterwards, but there’s no denying we’re starting out from an exceptionally good position. All of which would seem to add up to some pretty powerful incentives for potential sponsors.

Apart from bringing the crew of Alan Priddy’s superboat together for the first time, the 2011 London Boat Show was the scene of a couple of useful meetings – one with a photo press agency specialising in boating matters. When British yachtswoman Dee Caffari became the first woman to successfully complete a solo, non-stop circumnavigation both ways around the world, they put her on the front page of every UK newspaper. They seem to think they can do the same for us.

And we also talked over TV coverage with the company that puts out the weekly motorsport programmes “Motorsport Mundial”, “Planet Speed” and “Max Power” to 27 million households in the UK and Ireland. Oh, and over half a billion households worldwide. They’ve promised us coverage not just for the duration of the Circumnavigation challenge itself, but in the run-up – including the building of the boat, and the test run, which will most likely take on the Transatlantic world record set by Alan Priddy, Steve Lloyd, Jan Falkowski and me 10 years ago in Spirit of Cardiff.

We’ll be looking at getting news coverage as well, and hopefully a documentary to tell the story afterwards, but there’s no denying we’re starting out from an exceptionally good position. All of which would seem to add up to some pretty powerful incentives for potential sponsors.

Long time coming

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Isn’t it strange how sometimes things come together at the same time? Today a feature I researched ages ago in the middle of last year finally saw the light of day in the Sunday Mirror. Mind you, it did have a chocolate theme, so when better than just before the great chocfest of Easter to publish it?

And last week, things also took a significant step forwards with Alan Priddy’s next round the world powerboat. It’s tempting to call it son of Spirit of Cardiff, but of course boats are traditionally female, so I guess it has to be a daughter. Not a great deal of similarity between the two, anyway. More to the point, while it’s been designed for many months, at long last we will be in a position to go ahead with building the boat in the very near future.

When Alan and I attempted to break the round the world record eight years ago, it stood at just under 75 days (set in 1998 by the multi-million pound superboat Cable and Wireless Adventurer). A couple of years ago that was knocked down to 61 by the New Zealand carbon-fibre boat Earthrace. Our target is 40 to 45 days! Apart from taking back a world record which most definitely ought to be BRITISH, it also means that for the first time ever a powerboat will have gone around the world faster than the fastest sailing record (Bruno Peyron, Orange II, 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes, in 2005).

So how is it going to be possible to knock such a huge lump off the record? Maybe I’ll leave that for another blog – chances are it won’t be too long. And perhaps the most sobering thought is that pretty much by this time next year I’ll be writing about it all in the past tense!

For now, I can only speculate that once the boat is built (it’ll take around two months), she’s in the water and we’ve stretched her legs a bit, that the public will take her to heart and support our endeavour. In the meantime, for Alan Priddy and me, this is something that’s been a long, long time coming. But now it’s getting close.

Decade Gazing

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

I guess this is something I should have done a few days ago, but then I’ve never been one to put a great deal of store in the concept of New Year. It is, after all, just a system of numbering.

Having said that, the past 10 years have been quite momentous ones for me. I thought the 90s were pretty amazing – I did a huge amount of travelling, became the first journalist to fly in a hot air balloon in Soviet Russia, descended 100 feet to the bottom of Windermere in a submersible, and led a trek in Nepal for Everest legend Doug Scott (in the process coming back with one of the most exotic diseases on the planet).

But the noughties saw a personal journey rather more intense. I’ve had a few sticky moments in the mountains, but nothing could compare to the brutal punishment of being tossed around in storms up to Force 11 in a 33 foot powerboat. Spirit of Cardiff was built to break the record for circumnavigating the world, and by accident, I found myself part of the crew.

Spirit of Cardiff in Gloucester, MassachusettsWe didn’t break the round the world record, but we still set more boating records than anyone else, including Ellen MacArthur. In 2000 we set the very first ever world record for circumnavigating the British Isles by powerboat. It’s been broken several times since, but no one can take away the fact that Spirit of Cardiff was first! And in 2001, we set the new world record for a powerboat transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point. Not only does that one still stand, no one has even tried to beat it.

Finding yourself in an angry ocean in the middle of the night, 300 miles from land, is one of those things that forces you to confront your fears. And yet I was less concerned about the many times I had to worry about that during my epic voyage around the world in 2002, than the moment in Sri Lanka when I found myself staring down the receiving end of an AK47, or being chased by a pirate boat in the South China Sea. Those are the moments that stick in my mind as rather more scary than braving Mother Nature at her most aggressive.

Spirit of Cardiff ended up being lost at sea, abandoned in a dramatic rescue in the North Atlantic. It was one of the few trips she did without me on board, and I’ve always wondered how I would have faced up to that one – where the prospect of not surviving was even more stark than the ones I had to face. After that I went back to rather more gentle travel journalism, but the intention has always been to come back for another crack at the round the world record.

In the end, it didn’t happen in the noughties, but the successor to Spirit of Cardiff is designed, and a lot of the groundwork has been done. Of course, finding sponsors with deep pockets in a recession is a pretty tough call. But you never know – it could still happen in the next year or so. All of which leads me to thinking that there’s only so much gazing backwards one can do – forwards is always much more interesting!