Destriero will try to complete the 3,500-mile non-stop journey from Tarifa Point in Spain to Ambrose Lighthouse off New York in less than three days, 12 hours and 12 minutes.
The challenge was organised by Karim Aga Khan, the international financier, and Gianni Agnelli, the chairman of Italy's motor giant Fiat. They convinced sponsors such as Agip and General Electric to invest more than L14bn ( pounds 6.5m) in the project. Another L50bn was put up by Bravo Romeo, a Dublin company supposedly linked to the Aga Khan.
The firms are not simply in this for the glory. They are interested in developing a new generation of fast ferry boats. A recent study by the shipbuilder Fincantieri says the ferry business in Europe is expected to grow by 30 per cent over the next five years and stresses the need for faster crossings on many Mediterranean routes.
Destriero's sponsors believe a record-breaking crossing will demonstrate that they have already developed the best new technology. Fincantieri says the potential market may be worth more than dollars 1.5bn.Reuse content