Cheyenne was the first of the new generation mega-cats to be launched. It was splashed in New Zealand in 1999, named Playstation after the sponsor, and from the outset became the benchmark against which future designs would be measured. The California-based designed team of Pete MELVIN and Gino MORRELLI created a craft which they believed would assail existing records and set new ones. They were right, but it was not all smooth sailing for the 105-foot (32 metre) catamaran. In the summer of 2000 a fire broke out in the starboard hull causing extensive damage. Fossett rebuilt and went on to set a new 24-hour distance record of 580 nautical miles.
Being the first large, performance catamaran, it was only natural that the boat experienced some handling problems, one of which was a terrifying tendency for the bows to dig in while sailing at speed. The crew lived in fear of the bows being buried and the boat pitch-poling. It was a very real fear, and at the start of a transatlantic record run the boat was thrown into a violent crash gybe when one of the bows caught and dug in. Fossett and his crew abandoned the attempt and sailed into Newport, Rhode Island. It was time to reconsider the design. One of the goals of the campaign was a go at the Jules Verne trophy and the team knew that sailing the boat through the Southern Ocean would be suicidal unless something was done about the forward buoyancy. The solution was relatively simply; twenty feet was added to each bow. The result was a rather ungainly looking yacht, but one that was clearly ready for business.
In 2001 Playstation entered The Race. It was a much anticipated battle against the benchmark boat and three upstart newcomers; the Ollier sisters as the three identical Gilles OLLIER designed catamarans were dubbed. Club Med, Innovation Explorer and Team Adventure were all 110 feet (33.5 metres), all built from the same mould. Unfortunately sail problems forced Playstation to pull in to Gibraltar and a few weeks later the boat retired from the race with a broken daggerboard.
When Club Med won The Race there was some serious talk about Playstation being outdated. The nimble Ollier cats were in sharp contrast to the raw power of Playstation. It's clear that Fossett did not agree with that assessment. In 2003, with the yacht now renamed Cheyenne, he not only broke the transatlantic record from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Land's End on England's south coast, he smashed it. The time of 4 days and 17 hours has withstood a number of assaults and looks likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. Then Fossett and his team took on the big one, the around the world non-stop record. Declining to pay the Jules Verne entry fee, Cheyenne was not eligible for the official trophy, but trophies are not something that interests Steve FOSSETT. He collects records, not silverware, and his circumnavigation time of 58 days and 9 hours surprised even Fossett himself. They were two days faster than even their best estimates. It's interesting to note that the original 24-hour speed record of 580 miles was considered to be quite routine during their passage around the world, and with the new fastest time now standing at 706.2 miles, one wonders what the future holds.
For the first time Cheyenne will square up against Geronimo, the current Jules Verne record holder, and Doha 2006, the winner of The Race. Dave SCULLY knows the boat well. He sailed with Fossett as watch captain and has been an integral part of the Playstation/Cheyenne campaign since its inception. He has the drive and the will to win. Scully circumnavigated single-handed in 1994 in the BOC race aboard the Open 60 Coyote, and is as comfortable at sea as he is on land. Now, as the skipper of Cheyenne, he has something to prove and with an extraordinary crew including Herve JAN, one of Franc's best big cat sailors, and multiple circumnavigator Gordon MAGUIRE on board, Cheyenne is the odds on favorite for the million dollar purse.
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