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Sir Richard Branson Battles To Kite-Surf Record Across The English Channel

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Sir Richard Branson has entered the record books as the oldest person to kite-surf the English Channel - on his second attempt in 24 hours.

The 61-year-old Virgin tycoon crossed from Dymchurch, Kent, to Wimereux in northern France in three hours, 45 minutes to establish the first Guinness World Record for the oldest person to make the crossing by kite-surf.

He failed to secure the second world record he was also eyeing, which was set by his son Sam only yesterday for the fastest cross-Channel kite-surf.

richard branson

Making waves: Sir Richard Branson zips across The English Channel

Sam made the 30-mile journey from Wimereux to Folkestone in two hours and 18 minutes, shaving 12 minutes off the previous record which was set in 1999.

He was followed on to shore by eight friends and relatives who entered the record books as the fastest group of kite-surfers to make the Channel crossing, for which there was no previous record.

Disappointingly, Sir Richard, who turns 62 next month, had to abort his part in yesterday's challenge after realising his kite was too small to carry him over while he was half-way across.

But he immediately vowed to try again, saying he wanted to "finish the job".

He jokily told his son to enjoy the next 24 hours as the fastest cross-Channel kite-surfer because he aimed to take the title from him.

Tonight Sir Richard said the journey was "far more challenging" than he thought, with strong winds and large waves.
He added that he now had even more respect for his son in gaining his world record.

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Life's a beach: Sir Richard gives the thumbs up after his successful record attempt

The group crossed from France yesterday dressed as pirates after the French authorities raised objections to their record bids.

Sir Richard said tonight: "It's great to be standing on French soil and not be surrounded by French police.

"It's wonderful for the family to have set three world records in two days. I have even more respect for Sam's world record having taken so long myself to get across.

"The trip was far more challenging than I thought, with 40 mph winds in the middle of the Channel and major waves.

"I have to admit there were moments when I was tempted to abandon it. The wind direction was the opposite of what had been forecast.

"I expected to scream across but was greeted with a long, downstream kite that took considerably longer."

Two years ago, Sir Richard had to abandon an attempt at setting the same records due to poor weather conditions.

Since then, he and his friends and family have been keeping a watchful eye on the weather so they could re-attempt the challenge.

The magnate is no stranger to record attempts.

In 1987, his hot air balloon Virgin Atlantic Flyer crossed the Atlantic, setting the record as 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.

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

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.

He said: "Kite-surfing is great fun. I've been doing it almost since the sport began and I've done some quite good adventures with kite-surfing.

"I absolutely love the sport. It's great that people my age can do it and even take on their children."

Sir Richard and his team are the latest in a long line of daredevils to attempt journeys across the English Channel.

Trained pilot Jonathan Trappe was successful in May 2010 when he was strapped to a wicker chair carried by a cloud of colourful helium balloons.

In the same year, television presenter Christine Bleakley crossed the Channel on water skis in one hour, 40 minutes in aid of Sport Relief, despite being afraid of water.

And "Birdman" Yves Rossy blasted into the record books on a cross-Channel flight with a jet-propelled wing on his back in 2008.

He parachuted into an English field 22 miles from Calais 13 minutes after take-off, flying at up to 125mph after jumping from a plane 8,200ft above France.

Later, Sir Richard said he and his team were approached by French police who pointed out that they had broken the law.

But the Virgin boss said the officers possessed a "sense of humour" and sent them on their way with a warning not to do it again.

Sir Richard said: "We were secretly hoping they would arrest us so we could get to a police cell and warm up a bit.

"Luckily, they had a sense of humour and they let us off with a very firm warning not to do it again and sent us on our way.

"Shaking from the cold, I assured them I had no desire to do it again. Maybe Sam's record is safe after all."