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Speedboat Beleived Sunk After Failing Cross-Atlantic Attempt

August 17, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ Salvagers gave up their attempts Friday to find the Virgin Atlantic Challenger, a speedboat that struck an underwater object and capsized off the southwestern coast of England, failing its attempt at the fastest surface crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

The $1.75 million boat is thought to have sunk after its nine crewmen were rescued Thursday night.

Organizers of the attempt on the record said that the West German tug Caribic had given up on its salvage efforts after finding only a damaged flotation bag in the area where the Challenger was last seen Thursday.

″At this stage, it would seem reasonable to assume that the Virgin Atlantic Challenger has now sunk,″ the statement said. The speedboat had been reported to be partially submerged with its bow sticking out of the water after the crew abandoned ship.

The all-British crew told a news conference Friday that they would build another boat and try again next year. They hope to win the Blue Riband prize for the fastest Atlantic crossing by breaking the record of three days, 10 hours and 40 minutes set by the liner SS United States in 1952.

The Challenger was two hours away from the coast when it had its mishap. If it had continued safely, it was in time to have beat the record by two hours.

The boat’s owner, Richard Branson, 35, owner of Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic Airlines, said in a news conference at Portsmouth, on England’s southern coast, ″We feel we would like to stick together as a team and do it again next year.″

The boat captain, Ted Toleman, 47, said the team would commission a modified and enlarged boat next year. ″In this sort of situation, like any adventure, like climbing Everest, you have just got to go for it,″ he said.

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