Branson rides waves to set another record
VIRGIN Group boss Sir Richard Branson told how he completed his latest “great adventure”, becoming the oldest person to kite-surf across the English Channel.
The 61-year-old crossed the 30-mile stretch from Dymchurch in Kent to Wimereux, near Boulogne in France, in three hours and 45 minutes.
Sir Richard completed the feat on Sunday after turning back on Saturday, because his kite was too small.
And it was a double celebration in the Branson household in Kidlington, as Sir Richard’s son Sam, 26, set the record for the fastest kite-surfing Channel crossing, from Wimereux to Folkestone, in a time of two hours and 18 minutes.
Sir Richard had wanted to break the record for the fastest kite-surf crossing himself, but failed to achieve it. He told the Oxford Mail: “On the second day there was a force seven gale and 30ft waves. It was really tough for the boats trying to keep up with us.
“I ended up with quite a lot of seawater in me but I wasn’t fearful for my life. It was a great adventure.
“The French authorities had told us we weren’t allowed to do this, so when we arrived there was the potential for us to be arrested.
“We were on the beach, freezing cold, and they asked us not to do it again but they were very friendly about it.
“They knew who I was and gave me a ticking-off with a smile on their faces.
“It was so cold it was tempting to ask them to put us inside a warm police station.”
Sir Richard added: “The trip was far more challenging than I thought, with 40mph 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 Virgin boss said he sold his mansion at Mill End, Kidlington, to his children several years ago.
He said: “I actually sold my home in Kidlington about four years ago to my kids, so Sam and Holly live there now.
“They love Oxfordshire and will carry on the family tradition of living there.
“I live much more in the British Virgin Islands. We have had a home there for about 30 years.”
In 1987, Sir Richard became the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot-air balloon and in 1991 he was on board the first balloon to cross the Pacific Ocean.
His Channel feat came two days after the 26th anniversary of his completing the fastest-ever crossing of the Atlantic in the purpose-built powerboat Virgin Atlantic Challenger in 1986.
Sir Richard added that his days of adventuring were not yet over, and said: “I’ve got a couple of other big adventures.
“Our space programme launch is coming up, and there will also be a deepsea submarine voyage in the Atlantic.”