A HIGH-powered speedboat, which sailors hope will one day smash a world record, has hit the water for the first time.
Cheers erupted as Team Britannia’s 20-tonne powerboat Excalibur was painstakingly lowered into the water near its base on Hayling Island.
Brainchild of ocean racing legend Alan Priddy, it’s hoped the mighty vessel will one day cruise around the globe in record time.
Speaking at the ceremony, Alan said: ‘Last year the political commentator John Sergeant, on a visit to see Excalibur, asked me which would be finished first, our boat or Brexit – we now know the answer.
‘The crew and our supporters have waited a long time for this day, but now the construction of the Excalibur is complete and everyone can finally see her in all her glory.’
But despite the milestone, sources in the organisation admitted their much-delayed adventure is still ‘in limbo’ following the death of a key team member, who was killed in a speedboat crash in Venice.
Dutchman Erik Hoorn died along two other high-profile figures in the powerboat community when the vessel he was on ploughed into a concrete causeway at 80mph.
The boat had been racing for 18 hours and was attempting to establish a new speed record for travelling from Monte Carlo to Venice, a distance of more than 1,000 nautical miles.
Mr Hoorn was one of Team Britannia’s technical experts, responsible for fitting and testing Excalibur’s mighty engines.
Alistair Thompson, director of PR on the squad, said the tragedy was a ‘blow’ for the team.
‘We’re in limbo now after Erik’s death,’ he added. ‘He was a huge part of the team.
‘We have lost one of our technical experts and more importantly a crew member.
‘He was such a lovely chap.’
The death, along with on-going issues securing a lead sponsor, have forced the team to postpone its record bid from this month to some point next year, possibly October – a five-year setback from the original plan.
It’s hoped that when the boat is fished, it will be able to complete the 22,000-nautical mile trip in under 60 days, 23 hours and 49 minutes.
However, despite the delays, the team remained ‘determined as ever’, Mr Thompson said.
Excalibur will now be moved to the Hayling Yacht Company for her final fit-out. This will see the installation of massive inflatable tubes, commissioning of her engines and jets and to allow the superstructure and deck to be wrapped.
But before that engineers will be busying themselves fitting super-tough, hurricane-proof glass – the first panes of which are due to be fitted this weekend.
More than 200 people have been involved in the project since it was first conceived in 2007.