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Virgin Money sets off on sailing record attempt

Branson’s set sail on Cross-Atlantic Challenge

Virgin Money has set sail on its Cross-Atlantic Challenge.

Richard Branson, his children Holly (26) and Sam (23) and the crew of the monohull maxi-yacht Virgin Money aim to break the world record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean, currently set at 6 days 17 hours, 39 minutes and 52 seconds.

Virgin Money set sail from New York and passed the official start line at Ambrose Lighthouse at 04:00 EST on 22 October 2008. The yacht will have to make the target of Lizard Point, the most South Westerly point of the UK, no later than 21:39.52 EST on 28 October 2008 to break the record.

Announcing the start of the challenge Sir Richard Branson said: “I can't quite believe we've decided to leave four hours earlier than planned to ensure we jump in front of a huge storm. The first 24 hours we'll endeavour to out-run a storm and navigate another that could cause major damage to the boat and destroy our chances of breaking the record. We need to navigate these two storm systems perfectly to have any chance of succeeding. It’s going to be a very challenging six days."

Mike Sanderson, Skipper of Virgin Money and Team Director, TEAMORIGIN, commented: “As always it has been difficult finding a suitable weather window in which to begin the record attempt. Forecasters are predicting the mother of all storm systems, with two storms converging and winds of up to 50 knots. Virgin Money is a very innovative, fast, state-of-the-art yacht and given the right conditions we are confident we could beat the current record we set on Mari Cha IV in 2003 and have a great time with Sir Richard and his family.”

The 99ft monohull yacht Virgin Money which can reach speeds of up to 45 knots contains a crew of 25. The crew members will work in 4 hour shifts during the challenge in an attempt to break the record. Richard, Holly, Sam and other crew members will be posting regular blogs charting their progress during the challenge as they attempt to sail into the record books.

As well as containing two generations of the Branson family, the crew of Virgin Money will also include Ben Ainslie, TEAMORIGIN Helmsman and quadruple Olympic Medallist. He said: “I am very excited to be taking part in such an amazing challenge with my TEAMORIGIN crewmates and Sir Richard Branson. We have a fantastic boat and a world-class team of America’s Cup sailors onboard. Although I have competed in the Sydney-Hobart and the Middle Sea Race before, this will be my first Atlantic crossing. I have seen the weather forecast and it looks like it will be a pretty wild ride but I am confident we are up to the challenge.”

Although the boat is power assisted, the crew aim to break the faster non-power assisted record of 6 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds, set by the Mari Cha IV in 2003 to take the title as undisputed king of the Atlantic waves. ‘Leopard of London’ currently holds the power assisted cross-Atlantic record, with a time of 7 days, 19 hours, 20 minutes and 49 seconds.

The yacht includes the latest in nautical design and technology and its manufacture included input from race skipper Mike Sanderson, and Juan Kuoyoumdjian, principal designer at TEAMORIGIN, a team that includes Olympic winners Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson.

With the race skipper of Mari Cha IV, Mike Sanderson at the helm and the Virgin Money yacht the pinnacle of nautical design, the race is on to beat the record for the 2925 nautical mile voyage.

ENDS

For further information

General Press office
Tel: +44 207 111 1015

Jackie McQuillan, Group PR Director, Virgin Money
Tel: + 44 7905 309096

Scott Mowbray, Head of PR, Virgin Money
Tel: +44 7906 444540

Grant Bather, PR Manager, Virgin Money
Tel: +44 7834 844427

About Virgin Money

Virgin Money is Virgin's financial services arm and was established in 1995.

Virgin Money has over two million customers and offers a wide range of financial products across lending (e.g. credit cards and personal loans), savings (e.g. deposits, investments and pensions) and protection (e.g. life insurance, home insurance and car insurance) to the UK market.

Virgin Money Personal Financial Service Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). Registered Office: Discovery House, Whiting Road, Norwich NR4 6EJ. Registered in England no. 3072766. Entered on the Financial Services Register (www.fsa.gov.uk/register), Register Number: 179271

About TEAMORIGIN:

For further information about TEAMORIGIN, go to www.teamorigin.com