After approximately 2 days and 4 hours at sea, the crew of Virgin Money had to admit defeat on their first attempt to set a new world record for the fastest monohull crossing of the Atlantic Ocean after sustaining substantial damage to their mainsail and spinnaker.
After two days that saw Sir Richard BRANSON and the TEAMORIGIN crew onboard Virgin Money overcome seas of 40ft and gale force winds of between force 7 and 9 their dreams were finally dashed when a 'monster wave' took out the spinnaker, washed a ten-man life boat overboard and ripped a huge gash in the mainsail.
Speaking to Mission Control after the decision to abandon the record attempt this time round, the crew were frustrated but upbeat about the boat's performance and chances of success in the future. Co-skipper Sir Richard BRANSON (GBR) said, "I am surrounded by the most amazing group of world class sailors - all of whom are still committed to getting this record - it's just a shame it wasn't to be on this attempt. Virgin Money will soon be fighting fit and ready to take on the Atlantic again in the very near future. Taking on an ocean like the Atlantic was never going to be easy - I know that only too well having been defeated by her once before on Virgin Challenger 1 - you learn to respect the awesome power of this ocean and to admit when she has you beat. But I truly believe that next time, as with Virgin Challenger 11, Virgin Money will set a new world record that will secure its place in the record books for many years to come."
From onboard Virgin Money fellow co-skipper Mike SANDERSON (NZL) was characteristically laid back: "Well that was a fairly exciting trip… We all knew, as a result of leaving so late in the season, we were in for a bumpy ride - we just didn't suspect it to be this bumpy. We had a good go at repairing the mainsail at sea but it wasn't possible in the conditions we were experiencing. Lady Luck was not smiling down on us this time round. Virgin Money performed well and she'll be good to go again just as soon as we get the mainsail repaired."
Triple Olympic gold medal winner Ben AINSLIE
(GBR) had just spent his first two days ocean racing on Virgin Money: "I'm just as disappointed as Richard and Mike that we didn't achieve our goal this time out of the dock but I'm looking forward to breaking the record next time out. Virgin Money is an awesome piece of kit - a real beast."
Holly and Sam BRANSON were equally up for the next challenge, Holly said: "It's been an amazing trip to be part of. I didn't have to use my medical skills too much, despite the crew taking a real battering during the 2 days on board. I'm not too upset though as I'm looking to stepping onto dry land and taking in some Bermudan sun!"
Sam added: "It's a bit of a shame to be heading back. As beginners it took Holly and I a full day to find our sea legs but the last day has been amazing. It's been all hands on deck and incredible to share the experience with all of the guys involved. With a bit more luck and the right weather conditions the next attempt will be great to be part of."
The crew and Virgin Money are expected in St George's Customs Dock, Bermuda at 17:00 local time.