Posts Tagged ‘world record’

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!

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.