ARSONISTS have damaged a powerboat built by legendary sailor Alan Priddy two months away from the start of his world record attempt.
The Southsea-based adventurer, who plans to go round the world in the boat, initially thought it escaped unscathed from the huge blaze near the factory where he is building it.
But as work continued on the 90ft powerboat, it became clear something was wrong.
Scientific investigation has revealed the aluminium hull softened as a result of being heated and cooled.
Now work on the boat has been halted while Mr Priddy and his team work out what to do. He said: ‘I’m in the process of making some very tough decisions but I feel confident everything will be back on track. I have never knowingly gone to sea in a bad boat and I genuinely feel that at best the boat will not do the job it is designed to do.
‘At the very worst something will go wrong resulting in a loss of life.
‘It’s tremendously disappointing after the amount of time and effort it’s taken to get us this far.
‘But whatever the outcome we have no intention of giving up, and we will bring the circumnavigation world record back to the UK, where it belongs.’
The fire happened at the Micklewright factory in Dudley, where the boat has been under construction for months.
It began in a warehouse next to the one housing the boat. The flames were so intense it melted steel girders and a number of vehicles.
Mr Priddy, 58, was told about the fire in June but to begin with it appeared the only damage was a layer of soot over the boat.
Work was forced to stop for a week while investigators examined the scene of the fire.
The team was later able to clean out the boat’s massive 28,000-litre fuel tank and fill it with water to check for leaks.
After finding several, they decided to check for other problems and discovered the aluminium was damaged.
Mr Priddy is building the boat to take it around the globe to win the record for the fastest powerboat circumnavigation of the world.
The world record is held by New Zealander Peter Bethuen after his voyage in 2008.
He completed the 24,000-mile journey in 60 days, 23 hours and 49 minutes.
But Mr Priddy has vowed his team can do it in 50 days.
They planned to set off in November.