Storm threatens Branson record attempt

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The Independent US

Sir Richard Branson's transatlantic record attempt may be jeopardised by "massive seas and very strong gales", he revealed today.

Speaking to GMTV via satellite from his 99-foot yacht Virgin Money, he said the storms hammering the Atlantic "may have been too much for the boat and we may have pushed it too hard".

The billionaire founder of the Virgin Group set sail from New York on Wednesday with his adult children Holly, 26, Sam, 23, and Olympic hero Ben Ainslie.

He said today: "We were doing very good until recently when we had a massive wave hit us from behind. It literally took one of our life craft with it.

"The storm has also taken out the spinnaker and ripped the main sail so we'll have to decide whether it can be mended and whether we've still got a chance of making the record."

He praised the 30-strong crew on board the single-hulled yacht. Britain's America's Cup sailing team are also part of the crew and he said: "If anybody can sort these things out, these guys can."

But he added they would not hesitate to turn back if weather conditions worsened and he would one day attempt the record again.

It is the first time Sir Richard's children have joined him in a record attempt.

He said they "made up their own minds on this one", adding: "They would never have forgiven me if I hadn't taken them."

He said the crew would monitor the weather over the next few hours to see if they could carry on with the journey.

He finished by saying: "It may only have been two days but it's been a full-on two days."

The team wants to complete the journey in less than six days, 17 hrs, 52 mins and 39 secs.

Sir Richard previously set the record for crossing the Atlantic in the fastest recorded time in a powerboat in 1986 and flew across the same ocean in the largest hot-air balloon the following year.

His latest challenge is due to see the crew sail Virgin Money, considered one of the fastest yachts of its type, to the Lizard peninsula, England's most south-westerly point.