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Richard Branson abandons bid to kite-surf the English Channel

The tycoon had hoped to become the oldest person to cross the Channel by kite-surf but had to turn back because his kite was too small.

Branson gets a bottle of champagne on a beach in Kent today after he abandoned his attempt to cross the English Channel by kite-surf
Branson gets a bottle of champagne on a beach in Kent today after he abandoned his attempt to cross the English Channel by kite-surf
Image: Tom Pugh/PA Wire

BRITISH TYCOON RICHARD Branson was forced to abandon his bid to set at least two world records today by kite-surfing across the English Channel.

The billionaire adventurer had hoped to become the oldest person to cross the Channel by kite-surf and to be part of the fastest kite-surfing team to make the journey, along with his son, nephews and friends.

But halfway across, 61-year-old Branson was forced to turn back to Wimereux in northern France after realising his kite was too small.

“All was going fine until we reached half way across and could clearly see the white cliffs of Dover,” the Virgin entrepreneur, who had tried to set the same records two years ago, wrote on his blog.

“The chase boat then told me that I needed to go more up wind or I would collide with the white cliffs, sadly my kite wasn’t big enough, so I realised I needed to head back to France to get a larger kite.”

While his own hopes were dashed, Branson’s son Sam broke the record for the fastest solo kite-surf journey across the Channel, reaching Folkestone in Kent in southeast England in around two and a half hours.

Sam beat the previous record for the 48-kilometre (30-mile) journey, set in 1999, by 12 minutes.

He and the eight others who successfully made the crossing also created a new record as the fastest group of kite-surfers to cross the Channel.

“As a father and uncle I’m enormously proud of them all,” Branson wrote. “But having attempted to cross the Channel twice, I still have something to prove to myself.

“So tomorrow, weather willing, I’ll have another go at breaking the new world record — held by my son. I have told Sam to enjoy the next 24 hours.”

Branson’s first attempt to kite-surf across the Channel, in August 2010, was thwarted by strong winds and a choppy sea. The next day, the winds were too weak for the journey.

Branson is no stranger to record attempts.

In 1987 he and Swedish aeronaut Per Lindstrand became the first people to cross the Atlantic by hot air balloon, while in 1991, he was in the first balloon to cross the Pacific from Japan to Arctic Canada.

Between 1995 and 1998 he, Lindstrand and US adventurer Steve Fossett tried to travel nonstop around the world by balloon.

Fossett, who became the first person to fly non-stop around the world in a balloon in 2002, went missing on a solo flight in Nevada in September 2007.

The wreckage of his plane and two of his bones were found in a remote stretch of the Sierra Nevada mountains a year later.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: 9 celebrities turned real-life-heroes >

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