London Boat Show berth for Branson record-breaker?

The public may get the chance to board record-breaking Virgin Atlantic Challenger II at the London Boat Show in January

The public may get the chance to board Virgin Challenger II at the London Boat Show in January.

The boat used by billionaire Richard Branson to smash the transatlantic record back in 1986 is currently on the market for £650,000. Owner Dan Stevens has offered the show organisers the chance to display the fully-restored 72ft powerboat.

Stevens believes the general public would appreciate seeing the boat in the flesh and having the chance to get on board.

Stevens found the boat and its 2,000hp engines fading away in a Mallorcan marina in 2011 and decided to buy it and restore it to its former glory at his Plymouth boatyard.

Virgin Atlantic Challenger II - engine room

The restored engine room on Virgin Atlantic Challenger II

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Speaking on Facebook of his recent attempts to sell, Stevens, a former merchant navy officer, says: “COME ON GUYS!!!! STG [sterling] at a record low…VAC2 has never been better value….72ft 55knots + in any conditions your body can withstand….try a bonafide offer on the reduced asking price of stg £650,000!!!!!”

Branson took two hours off the record with a time of three days, eight hours and 31 minutes and made himself a household name as an adventurer.

Reunited with Virgin Atlantic Challenger II and his original crew in 2015, Branson sailed it with Stevens from Plymouth to Fowey and back.

“I love Challenger II not only because it is a beautiful boat, but as it gave us a platform to challenge ourselves, push boundaries and embrace the spirit of adventure,” Branson wrote in his blog at the time.

Despite its record-breaking history the boat has fewer than 1,000 engine hours on the clock. Stevens wants it to stay in the UK and be preserved for future generations.

He claims to have spent around 1,000 hours and nearly £500,000 getting the boat seaworthy again.

VAC II was sold in the late 1980s, reportedly to a sultan. It is thought to have had an English owner and spent about seven years moored in Mallorca until Mr Stevens bought her.

“I can’t really justify keeping the boat so I’ve put it up for sale,” he told the Daily Mail. “Fingers crossed it will be bought by a private buyer or even a maritime trust that will keep it in the UK.”

It can hit a top speed of 52 knots – just under 60mph – and can carry 12 passengers with two crew. It weighs 47 tonnes and holds 14 tonnes of diesel fuel in its tanks.

A spokeswoman for London Boat Show said: “I’ve spoken to the team and they are in ongoing conversations with owners of the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II about having the boat at the London Boat Show 2017. However, they are still to conclude on the logistics of getting the boat to the Show and exhibiting it.”


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