x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Branson family in record bid

Richard Branson sets sail for a family trans-Atlantic speed record.

The British billionaire Richard Branson and his two children set out with a crew of champion sailors on a 30metre racing yacht in an attempt to break a trans-Atlantic speed record. The sailors face nasty weather on their 4,830km race through the North Atlantic. The crew may need to dodge icebergs, and will almost surely be drenched by the roiling, icy ocean waves.

They hope to break the record for a trans-Atlantic crossing in a single-hulled sailboat by making it to south-west England in less than six days. The Virgin Money launched from Manhattan early in the moring to avoid a storm developing off New York, Branson, 58, said. "We know we're going to go through ferocious weather, and that's what we need to get the speeds we need to cross the Atlantic," the chairman of the Virgin Group said. "But obviously we don't want the kind of storm that's going to break up the boat."

The race was to end at Lizard Point off the coast of England. The record is six days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds. Joining Branson and a crew comprised of members of Britain's America's Cup sailing team - and several medal-winning Olympians - are his son, Sam, 23, and daughter, Holly, 26. Sam Branson said he wasn't worried about the risk of navigating the Atlantic in the foul weather. "I think it's more going to be just very unpleasant," he said. "The chance of anything going real wrong is not real high. We're in a great boat with a world class team."

Holly Branson, a physician, is serving as the medic. * AP