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Sir Richard Branson's English Channel Kite-Surfing Bid Fails

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RICHARD BRANSON
Failed: Sir Richard Branson | PA

Sir Richard Branson had to abandon an attempt to set at least two world records by kite-surfing across the English Channel on Saturday.

The Virgin entrepreneur hoped to become the oldest person to cross the Channel by kite-surf and to make the fastest crossing by a kite-surfing team.

Accompanied by his son Sam, nephews and friends, the 61-year-old left Wimereux in northern France at midday and aimed to successfully make the 30-mile journey to the Kent coast in around two and a half hours.

But as he was half-way across, Sir Richard, who turns 62 next month, realised his kite was too small and he had to turn back to France while his friends and family continued.

There was joy, however, for his son Sam who became the fastest person to kite-surf solo across the Channel when he reached Folkestone in two hours and 18 minutes, beating the previous record set in 1999 by 12 minutes.

Sam and the eight others who finished also entered the record books as the fastest group of kite-surfers to make the Channel crossing, for which there was no previous record.

Speaking after stepping off a boat on Folkestone beach, Sir Richard said he hoped to try the crossing again tomorrow if the weather permits.

As the tycoon reached dry land, hugs were exchanged and a bottle of champagne was uncorked to celebrate the team's success in writing themselves into the record books.

Sir Richard said: "I got half-way across and the kite was foolishly too small for me. I was heading for the cliffs of Dover where there is no beach.

"I was told to go back to France, which I did, to get a bigger kite. When I got there they had packed the kites up and were heading to England.

"My plan is to congratulate my son and give it another go tomorrow. I would like to finish the job off. It would have been lovely to have reached the finish line as planned."

His son said it was "an amazing experience".

He said: "I feel pretty euphoric. It's an amazing thing to have done. The main moment when it really hit me was when we were coming in and could see the white cliffs of Dover.

"It reminded me of people coming over to Britain to battle. It was an amazing experience."

Today marked further disappointment for the multi-millionaire as he had to abandon an attempt at setting the same records two years ago to celebrate his 60th birthday.

On one day, strong winds and a choppy sea made it unsafe for the magnate to proceed and he turned round after just an hour and 10 minutes on the waves.

The following day, the dream had to be put on hold again because the winds were much lower than anticipated on the Channel.

Since then, he and his fellow kite-surfing enthusiasts have been keeping a watchful eye on the weather conditions in order to make a further attempt.

Writing on his blog earlier today, Sir Richard said: "With strong winds come choppy seas and big waves.

"The wind direction means the distance we have to travel is a few miles further than the current record.

"I feel enormously fortunate to be able to experience such incredible challenges with family and friends.

"Also very lucky that my body is still capable of doing wonderful adventures like this."

Kite-surfing, or kite-boarding as it is also known, is a water sport in which the rider is pulled through the waves on a surfboard, propelled by a large controllable kite.

Sir Richard has described it as one of his favourite sports.

Writing in 2010, he said: "I absolutely love the amazing rush you get when going at high speeds, in high winds, with the most beautiful kite acting as your only guide."

Sir Richard is no stranger to record attempts.

In 1987, his hot air balloon Virgin Atlantic Flyer crossed the Atlantic, setting the record for the first balloon to do so.

In January 1991, he was in the first balloon to cross the Pacific from Japan to Arctic Canada in a journey that amounted to 6,700 miles (10,783km).

And from 1995 to 1998, Sir Richard, Per Lindstrand and Steve Fossett made attempts to circumnavigate the globe by balloon.