Branson forced to abandon English Channel kitesurf attempt

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British tycoon adventurer Richard Branson was forced to abandon a bid to kitesurf across the English Channel on Tuesday due to rough seas and high winds, a spokesman said.

The entrepreneur, who was attempting the stunt to mark turning 60 last month, had travelled five miles (eight kilometres) out to sea from Dungeness in southeast England when his support boats were forced to turn back.

Without the support team, Branson and his fellow kite-surfers, including his children, Holly and Sam, and other relatives and friends, could not continue their attempt to reach the northern French port of Boulogne.

Branson said: "It was fantastic conditions for kiting but hellish conditions for the chase boats. The boats couldn't have done it and it's too dangerous for the kites to continue without them.

"We knew when we set off there was a risk of that."

He added: "We had a big argument with the boats as we did want to carry on, but in the end sense prevailed."

Branson was about one hour and ten minutes into a 24.4-mile (39.3-kilometre) crossing expected to take about four hours when it was aborted.

He vowed to make another attempt on Wednesday, when conditions are expected to be better.

He said: "I don't think I've ever done an adventure where I've succeeded the first time.

"I'm looking forward to getting the job done tomorrow."

Branson, owner of the Virgin Atlantic airline and founder of an empire encompassing trains, media interests and financial services, hopes to become the oldest person to cross the Channel on a kitesurf and to make the fastest crossing by a kitesurf team.

In kitesurfing, or kiteboarding as it is also known, the rider is pulled through the waves on a surfboard, propelled by a large controllable kite.

© 2010 AFP

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