We all seem obsessed with records, and winning. The Olympic motto is "swifter, higher, stronger." I may have the order wrong, but I think that's what it is. The newspapers are filled with stories about a record opening for a movie. The papers track ratings for television shows, I guess assuming that everyone wants to be watching the most-watched shows. Even being in this business, I don't understand why that kind of stuff would matter, but apparently it does.
But the world has become a smaller place. If you want to be an explorer, or an adventurer, there are fewer places to go where you won't find some sign, usually trash, that someone has already been there before. People are reaching the top of Everest in record numbers. Now, people are looking for ever-smaller distinctions. The first to walk here, the first to paddle there. Steve Fossett is trying to be the first to go around the world in a balloon alone. A weird looking solar powered plane, with no one aboard, just set an altitude limit. And the quests continue.
But there are still plenty of ways for man and woman to test themselves against the elements. Andrew Morse, an ABC News producer out of our London bureau, came to us with a proposal. A high-tech catamaran, over a hundred feet long, and capable of tremendous speed on the water, was going to try to break the record for crossing the Atlantic. This boat can go about forty knots, or about forty-five miles an hour. For comparison, an America's Cup racer will go about 12 knots or so, the average weekend sailor is lucky to do six. Andrew and cameraman Gary Shore were going to ride along on the record-attempt. As technology advances, we're able to do more and more. There was a way to feed from the boat. Our plan was to do Nightline updates to track the progress of the boat.
They set out last Thursday, and were well ahead of the record pace, when I got an early morning call from Andrew. Traveling at close to thirty knots, they had hit something in the dark, and sheared off about twenty feet of the port hull. In trying to recover, the mainsail ripped. They were in trouble. Over the next two days, they were able to limp back to shore, and finally made it back to the captain's home in Maine. The whole time, Andrew and Gary were documenting what happened. Whether you're a sailor or not, adventure is hard to come by these days, and this is one to enjoy...from the comfort of your own homes.
Leroy Sievers is the Executive Producer of Nightline.