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Billionaire adventurer sets sail for glory

Richard Branson, the billionaire British businessman and founder of the Virgin Group, set off from New YorkHarbor Wednesday morning in an attempt to break the record for a trans-Atlantic crossing in a monohull sailboat, according to The New York Times.

This time, he’s taking his family.

Branson’s daughter Holly, 26, and his son Sam, 23, are making the voyage back to England with him on Virgin Money, a 99-foot maxiyacht, according to the report. His crew will also include members of Britain’s America’s Cup crew, including Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie.

“We’re going to be in for some pretty ferocious weather,” says Branson in the report. “And those are the kinds of wind we need for the record attempt.”

“Ferocious” made an early delivery for Branson, who was forced to slip lines four hours ahead of schedule, at 2 a.m., before a bleary-eyed, but enthusiastic crowd. The crew of Virgin Money crossed the Ambrose Lighthouse starting line at 4 a.m., still jet-lagged from scrambling from Britain to the U.S., according to the report. The current record was set in 2003 by Mari Cha IV, skippered by Mike Sanderson, at six days, 17 hours, 39 minutes and 52 seconds.

“The boat is more than capable of breaking the record,” says Ainslie in the report. “It just comes down to making sure we don’t break the boat — backing off at the right times and bringing the boat back in one piece.”

Branson says he is dedicating this trip to his close friend and fellow adventurer Steve Fossett, who is presumed dead after wreckage and belongings from his airplane was found in Nevada. Branson previously broke the trans-Atlantic record for powerboats in 1986, according to the report.

— Elizabeth Ellis