Islanders Celebrate 25th Anniversary Of Virgin Atlantic Challenger Record

Reception at the Old Wesleyan Chapel yesterday

Videos, photographs and anecdotes of the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II crossing from 25 years ago were shared between islanders and the men from the boat yesterday.

A reception was organised by the islanders who convinced the team to end their transatlantic crossing attempts on the islands instead of in Southampton.

Sailor Chay Blythe described the three day crossing as “a fun thing to do”. But other men onboard the 72 foot powerboat spoke of the bumping and discomfort of the waves.

Navigator, Dag Pike, described being inside the boat for three days as “physically and mentally painful” with no sleep and people constantly being thrown about. He said they were relieved when they finally reached Scilly.

Dag was navigating without modern GPS technology and he says the final few miles coming into land, just as a storm broke, were pretty tense, but thankfully they were guided in by the helicopters flying above them.

From Radio Scilly

Hear from those involved in the Virgin Atlantic Challenger celebrations:

Dag Pike

Chay Blyth

Ginger Jim

But in spite of the hellish conditions on board, islanders who waited off St Agnes to see the men arrive in the darkness spoke of a magical memory they’d always treasure.

Council Chairman, Mike Hicks, who spoke at yesterday’s event, said the expectation of the boat arriving was amazing and he never thought that something like that would get him so excited.

And Ginger Jim says the atmosphere was incredible, something he’s never seen on the islands since. He says the first sighting was like something from the film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, with three bright helicopter lights coming out of the darkness, followed by the boat roaring past Bishop Rock lighthouse.

Jim said it felt like all the boats in the harbour had gone down to meet the Challenger, as it moored between St Mary’s and St Agnes.

At yesterday’s celebrations, there was an official reception in the Council Chambers. The party then went on to the Harbourside Hotel, where islanders operated a control room known at the time as the ‘Yacht Club’.

After lunch at Juliet’s Garden, the party then travelled to Bishop Rock Lighthouse on the Cyclone.

Chay told us the team have enjoyed their return to the islands and appreciate the warm reception they’ve received from residents.

See photos of the celebrations in our gallery here