Sailing: Fossett takes Peyron's place in record book

The dream came true for the American adventurer Steve Fossett yesterday when he smashed the old world record for sailing non-stop round the world. The man who has also grabbed headlines with his ballooning exploits crossed the finish line off Ushant - from where he started on 7 February - to set a time of 58 days, nine hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds in his catamaran, Cheyenne, beating the target of 64 days and 8:37.24 set by France's Bruno Peyron in 2002.

The man who took to adventuring after making a fortune as a Chicago financial trader two years ago became, after several attempts, the first person to go non-stop round the world in a balloon. He also tackles record-breaking projects in gliders.

After crossing the line off Ushant, South Brittany, yesterday afternoon, he could at last savour some emotion, having set off saying that he thought their chances of even completing the course were only 50 per cent. He also feared that the boat might not be fast enough. "It was very dramatic," he said. "We had our hands full but everyone is just so happy. We are all emotionally drained. It is quite a celebration."

The run was not without its moments of anxiety. Twice the track which holds the mainsail tried to part company with the mast, requiring shifts of individuals to go 120 feet aloft in bruising conditions to make repairs which would keep the show on the road. Then, with just 5,000 miles to go, the forward of the two huge beams which hold the two hulls together tried to separate.

Defying superstition, they sailed with a total of 13 to keep the giant cat driving forward at up to 600 miles a day. Two were British, the 37-year-old Mark Featherstone, who was in charge of engineering, and 42-year-old Brian Thompson.

The man whose record they have taken was generous in his praise. "All the crew of Orange join with me to express our sincere admiration of the talent, courage and determination that such an exploit entails," Peyron said. Twice in recent weeks he has had to abandon attempts to lower his own record as his new boat suffered collision damage.

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