Branson joins with Team Origin for record attempt

99ft maxi-race yacht Virgin Money
Sir Richard Branson, Founder of The Virgin Group will this week join America’s Cup Challenger, TEAMORIGIN, in a new attempt to break the transatlantic record, which currently stands at 6 days, 17 hrs, 52 minutes and 39 seconds, to become the undisputable fastest mono-hull sailing yacht to cross the Atlantic.
The partnership with Team Origin, the British America’s Cup sailing team, is the second major sponsorship for the Virgin Money credit card business in recent months, following the announcement that it is to take over sponsorship of the London Marathon in 2010 in a deal worth over £17 million over five years.

Veteran adventurer Branson has made a number of world record-breaking attempts since 1985. However this latest attempt will be the first time he is joined by children, 26 year old Holly and 23 year old Sam, both very competent sailors, in a voyage which will see them navigating icebergs and floating hazards such as containers, whales and sharks. As a qualified Doctor, Holly Branson will also take on the role of medic onboard.

In 1986 Branson crossed the Atlantic in the fastest ever recorded time on board the powerboat 'Virgin Atlantic Challenger II', followed a year later by the epic hot air balloon crossing of the same ocean in 'Virgin Atlantic Flyer' – the largest ever balloon flown at 2.3 million cubic feet capacity.

This latest attempt to break the record sees Virgin Money and Sir Richard joining forces with yacht owner, Alex Jackson and Sir Keith Mills, Team Principal of Team Origin. Set up in January 2007 by Mills, the team’s aim is to win the next America’s Cup. The team is currently in training for this event, participating in extended activities such as competing in the iShares Cup Extreme 40 series and fine-tuning the design of the 99ft Super Maxi yacht ‘Virgin Money'.

Team Origin recently celebrated three of their sailing squad winning gold medals in Beijing: Ben Ainslie, Skipper and Helmsman for Team Origin won his third gold and fourth medal overall; Iain Percy, tactician for Team Origin, won his 2nd gold and Andrew Simpson won his first gold medal.

‘Virgin Money’ was launched in April 2008 (as Speedboat) and competed in its first event, the Newport to Bermuda race in June 2008 where it took line honours. In this new record attempt the yacht will set off from the Ambrose Lighthouse (just out of New York) sailing to Lizard Point, the most South West point of the UK.

Sir Richard Branson
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Virgin Founder, Richard Branson commented:

'It is real privilege to set sail with such an able and experienced crew as Team Origin and I’m also thrilled that Holly and Sam have the opportunity to share the experience. The support of Jayne Anne and the Virgin Money team has been crucial in making this record attempt happen and we’re all hoping we can add to the recent successes of British sailing. I’m also delighted to be taking on another record attempt – ten years has been too long!'

Mike Sanderson, Team Director of Team Origin and Co-Skipper of ‘Virgin Money’ commented,

'Having followed all of Richard’s adventures, it is a privilege to be attempting this next challenge together on Virgin Money. I certainly believe we have the hardware in place to have a successful attempt at breaking this record. Having been there myself in 1998 and 2003 when Mari Cha broke the transatlantic record, this feels like the right team and the right boat to do it again. For Team Origin it’s great to be able to get out on the water again as a team'.

The Transatlantic Record

In June 2008, the yacht ‘Leopard of London’ crossed the Atlantic in 7 days, 19 hours, 20 minutes and 49 seconds, setting a new record for the fastest monohull ‘with powered winches’ crossing.

Although the record books will hand the power-assisted record to ‘Virgin Money’ if it beats the current record held by Leopard, Branson and his team hope to beat the faster non-power assisted time held by Mari Cha IV.

Currently set at 6 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds by Mari Cha in 2003, by beating this record, Branson, his team and Virgin Money will be the undisputed kings of the Atlantic waves.

With the skipper of the Mari Cha, Mike Sanderson taking the helm for ‘Virgin Money’, a crew of 24 actively racing the boat and the support of Team Origin helping with the challenge, the race is on to beat the record.