PlayStation Prevails . . . Records Fall Like Dominoes
Awards Follow American Boat, Chicago Native Steve Fossett And Crew

By Thom Burns

Chicago-Mac players and fans know that 18 hours is the record. It was set by Steve Fossett aboard Dennis Connor’s old Catamaran in which he defended the America’s Cup. If PlayStation’s average speed across the Atlantic were applied to the Chicago-Mac the 18 hour record would be about 12 hours. Thus the incredible series of records which PlayStation has put up in the past year and threatens to add to this year.

Steve Fossett at the helm of PlayStation.
Photo by Fossettchallenge

It didn’t start out that smoothly. PlayStation like Club Med and Team Adventure was developed for “The Race.” A concept born of the French multihull star Loick Peyron in which there were very few design restrictions. This also meant that there was a limited database of actual trial and error. Where and how would these boats break?

American multihull designers Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin, Morrelli & Melvin, used a Velocity Prediction Program developed for the 1988 America’s Cup Campaign to start on Fossett’s design brief to design “the best boat for racing fully crewed, non-stop, around the world, as fast as possible.” 

The result is a super high technology boat built entirely from aerospace technology carbon fiber. The pre-preg carbon fiber mast towers 147.5 feet above deck. Go to for the litany of details.

Adversity struck PlayStation early and often. A fire required the replacement of about thirty feet of the starboard hull. The boat tended to pitch too much. The fix was to add 15 feet to the bows and 5 feet to the sterns. The boat became 125 feet with a beam of 60 feet. The Sailing press was full of articles that the boat was too heavy and too wide. It was being sailed by mostly amateurs. There were problems associated with mainsail battens on a sail whose foot is over 50 feet. They finally started The Race with a new, untested main which failed. They then took a 48 hour penalty stop to replace the main with the old main with over 20,000 miles on it. Before they ever reached the Southern Ocean it quit and PlayStation withdrew. Was this a good boat and crew?

According to crewman, Peter Hogg, one person who never lost faith and is primarily responsible for the tremendous success of the program is Steve Fossett himself. He is casual yet determined. He never dwells on blame, but rather instituted fixes. 

The Atlantic record effort was the fourth by PlayStation. It is a lesson in team coordination. With only two professional crew, the rest must stay on alert for the correct weather system. This means when the “green” alert goes out they all hop planes and fly to New York. If the weather system folds, they go back home. If it slows, they wait. If it is there, they go. 

These boats are so fast that they try to get in front of the “right” system, a major low pressure system, which will carry them all the way across the Atlantic. The “right” weather system bears a good deal of resemblence to “The Perfect Storm” without the hurrican approaching from the south.

PlayStation had one record setting attempt well in hand when yet more adversity slowed them down for fifty or so miles. This allowed the weathern system to catch and pass them. It doomed the attempt in light headwinds.

This past October everything went right. The system took an extra day to develop. The wind angle was almost a perfect 125 degrees true, velocity was in the twenties and it carried PlayStation and crew all the way to the Lizard Point off England. Two thousand eight hundred and eighty-five nm at an average speed of 25.78 knots. Durning the record Atlantic run they also set the coveted 24 hour distance record. It is now 687 nm. Remarkably they had not tacked or jibed once. They kept the same main sail configuration, one reef, for almost 2,500 nm. 

The PlayStation team has not stopped. Since October they have broken the around Isle of Wight, Channel Record and the latest, The Fastnet. Nothing is safe. If Fossett wants it, and PlayStation can get there, there is likely a new record in the making. 

Thom Burns publishes Northern Breezes and Sailing Breezes.

Fossett’s Sailing Records


Cowes-St Malo, 2001
6h 21m 44s

Round the Isle of Wight, 2001
2h 33m 55s
Transatlantic, 2001
4d 17h 28m

24 Hour Record (twice)
687.17nm in 2001 & 580.23 nm in 1999

Miami-New York, 2001
2d 5h 54m 42s

Newport-Bermuda, 2000 
1d 14h 35m 53s

Newport-Bermuda Singlehanded, 1999
40h 51m 54s

Pacific Singlehanded, 1996
20d 9h 52m 59s

Pacific East to West, 1996
19d 15h 18m 9s
Pacific (outright), 1995
16d 17h 21m 19s (superceded)

Transpac, 1995
6d 16h 7m 16s (superceded)

Hawaii-Japan, 1995
13d 20h 9m

Round Britain and Ireland, 1994
5d 21h 5m 27s

Isle of Wight, 1994
3h 35m 38s (superceded)

Round Ireland, 1993
44h 42m 20s


Chicago-Mackinac, 1998
18h 50m 32s

Newport-Ensenada, 1998
6h 46m 40s

Transpac, 1995(also world record)
6d 16h 7m 16s (superceded)

Transpac, 1998
7d 22h 38m

Swiftsure, 1997
14h 35m 29s

Ft Lauderdale Montego Bay, 1999
2d 20h 8m 5s

San Diego-Puerto Vallarta, 1998
62h 20m 11s

Long Beach ­Cabo San Lucas, 1995
3d 2h 59m

Windjammers (SF-Santa Cruz), 1997
4h 41m 2s

FIRST TO FINISH (OVERALL) in 21 major yacht races 


PlayStation's TransAtlantic Crew
Steve Fossett (USA) Skipper
Stan Honey (USA) Navigator
Ben Wright (AUS) Watch Captain
Dave Scully (USA) Watch Captain
Gino Morrelli (USA) Boat Designer/Crew
Peter Hogg (NZ) Crew
Shaun Biddulph (UK) Crew
Dave Calvert (USA) Crew
Paul Van Dyke (USA) Crew
David Weir (USA) Crew