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Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 23:28 GMT
Ultimate record attracts speedsters
Ellen MacArthur's Kingfisher 2. Photo: Jacques Vapillon.
MacArthur will attempt the Jules Verne in Kingfisher 2
Since man first put to sea, sailors have been keen to test themselves against each other and the elements.

The Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest craft to sail around the world is the natural extension of these early days.

It is based on the novellist's fictional tale of Phileas Fogg's attempt to travel around the world in under eighty days.

The race was originally conceived by French sailor Yves Le Cornec in 1985.

But it was not raced for until 1993 when another Frenchman Bruno Peyron set the inaugural record of 79 days six hours on Commodore Explorer.

Orange skipper Bruno Peyron
Peyron set the inaugural record and is the holder

The record was most recently improved to 64 days by Peyron and his crew on the giant catamaran Orange in 2002.

The 26,000-nautical mile trip follows the old trade routes taken by the early 20th century grain ships plying their trade between London and Australia.

Instead of the old tea clippers sailing from China to Britain in a westerly direction, the 'windjammers' opted to plunge down south and head east to harness the power of the roaring forties and shave months off the trip.

Previous records
2002: Orange, 64 days
1997: Sport Elec, 71 days
1994: ENZA, 74 days
1993: Commodore Explorer, 79 days

The route starts and finishes between England's Lizard Point and Ushant off France and goes past South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, Australia's Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn off South America.

In the original record attempt, three teams set off but Peyron's was the only one to finish.

French skipper Olivier de Kersauson (Charal) and the catamaran Enza of the late New Zealander Sir Peter Blake - who was recently killed by pirates in South America - both retired before the finish.

In 1994, Blake and Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail single-handed around the world non-stop, advanced the record to 74 days 22 hours.

Peter Blake's Enza broke the Jules Verne record in 1994
Enza broke the record on her second attempt

Three years later De Kersauson returned to improve the record by three days on the trimaran Sport Elec.

As technology moved on and sailors became ever more adventurous, Peyron instigated The Race, a non-stop no-rules lap of the planet for elite, cutting-edge craft, to celebrate the Millennium.

The Race was won by Kiwi Grant Dalton and his crew on the giant catamaran Club Med in 62 days.

The time did not qualify for the Jules Verne Trophy, though, as it began in Barcelona and ended in Marseilles.

But it fired sailors' imaginations and launched a renewed quest to break the Jules Verne record.

Peyron himself took over the catamaran Innovation Explorer, sailed into second place in The Race by his brother Loick, and renamed it Orange before surging into the record books in May 2002.

But having bought Orange from Peyron, MacArthur's team is looming and De Kersauson is also on standby for a new attempt on the giant trimaran Geronimo.

He made two attempts on the record in 2002 but was twice halted by technical failure.

Meanwhile, British yachtswoman Tracy Edwards has postponed her attempt on Maiden II (formerly Club Med) until next winter.

Ellen MacArthur's Jules Verne Trophy record bid

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27 Mar 02 | Sailing
03 Mar 01 | Other Sports
06 May 02 | Sailing
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