Virgin Oceanic’s Chief Pilot, Chris Welsh, upon meeting adventurer Steven Fossett, was greatly impressed by the sight of Fossett’s giant racing catamaran, the 125′ Cheyenne.
Fossett had conceived of a record-setting solo submarine dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The project would be supported by converting his 125′ racing catamaran, Cheyenne, into the mothership and support vessel. It was only fitting since Cheyenne was built to (and did) shatter sailing speed records. Now she would help break another record. Chris was instantly captivated and set his sights on completing Steve’s mission to the deepest part of the planet. He also expanded the project from a single solo dive to the current goal of five oceans, five dives, exploring the deepest depths in each of the five oceans of the world.
What does that mean for the catamaran? Instead of just crossing the Pacific to Guam and coming back, she will likely be covering over 25,000 miles of open ocean over the next two years. So what would it be like to be out there?
Well, inside the catamaran there are spartan berths, or sleeping quarters, for a racing crew of 12 (six in each hull). The “inside” of the cat is all within the two narrow hulls so passageways in the ship are no wider than your shoulders with bunks laid to one side of the hull. The hulls are mirror images of each other, with one housing a state-of-the-art navigation station and the other a minimal galley (kitchen)— all the more reason to have a cook who doubles as a morale chief!
Out on the deck it is far from being cramped. In fact, it feels more like being underneath a giant trapeze. Slung between each hull and underneath the special sling for the sub there are large nets known as the trampoline that you must brave if you want to be able to move around the catamaran.
A crane rises above the mid-point, standing by to lift the 3,600 kg (8,000 lb) sub off its rolling cradle, which can slide back out of the way, and lower the sub straight down into the water through a hole in the deck, also known as “the moon pool”.
Generators on board as well as power systems on the engines provide power to enable satellite navigation, lights, scientific equipment, music, and of course the communications systems that will allow us to send updates from the cat as it journeys around each of our planet’s oceans.