British record blown off course by dying wind

Hubris is not a fault which could be laid at the door of that old sea dog Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. But as his latest record attempt, to sail fastest solo non-stop round Britain, was thwarted in the last few hours, he undoubtedly gave a thought to an old west country friend, the recently departed and much lamented Andrew "Spud" Spedding.

Hubris is not a fault which could be laid at the door of that old sea dog Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. But as his latest record attempt, to sail fastest solo non-stop round Britain, was thwarted in the last few hours, he undoubtedly gave a thought to an old west country friend, the recently departed and much lamented Andrew "Spud" Spedding.

It was Spedding's tome, Sod's Law of the Sea, which so wittily described the way in which the gods, especially those controlling the weather, could make a pickle out of any decent pie.

So it was for Knox-Johnston yesterday as, just six miles from the finish of a near-2000 mile anti-clockwise trip round Britain, the wind died on him. It meant that, at 18 days, 18hr and 56min his Reflex 38 Tiger Clipper was five hours outside the record set just three days ago by Nick Keig in the 38-foot Zeal.

"This has not been an easy record attempt," said a philosophical Sir Robin. "But I hope it will inspire others. After all, records are there to be broken."

Making better progress on the clockwise route of the Great Britain and Ireland Race is one of Sir Robin's proteges. Alex Thomson, who is well in the lead with a full crew on the Open 50 sailthatdream.com.

With less than 500 miles to run to the finish in Cowes, the multihull prize should go to Mike Butterfield's 50-foot catamaran Dazzler, while the chasing monohulls are Derek Saunders, in the 45-foot Incisor, and Pindar, the other Open 50, being sailed double handed by the all-woman team of Emma Richards and Miranda Merron.

Threatening to break the west-east transatlantic record by a huge 24 hours, the barnstorming Steve Fossett, in his 108-foot catamaran PlayStation, was continuing to average over 20 knots yesterday. He is well past the half way stage and over 15 hours ahead of the schedule needed to beat the 6 days 13hrs 3min 32sec set by Serge Madec in 1990 on Jet Services V.

Fossett now needs to average less than 14 knots to do that and has the prospect of weather systems that should give him enough wind all the way to the finish at The Lizard.

Meanwhile, a scald burn suffered in the shower by Mark Covell, crewman to Ian Walker in Britain's two man Star for next month's Olympics, has put him out of action for 10 days in Sydney. The rest is precautionary to avoid infection, but Walker will continue training on the water with Chris Mason, one of his boat preparation team.

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