Monday July 20 8:08 AM EDT

Danish ferry sets new Atlantic-crossing record

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (Reuters) - Danish ferry Cat-Link V completed a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean at world record speed Monday despite a delay of more than two hours when it took part in a search and rescue operation, a Cat-Link Shipping spokesman said.

Cat-Link V, a 91.3 meter (300 feet) car and passenger double-hulled catamaran ferry with four diesel engines generating 34,000 horsepower, crossed the Atlantic from New York to Bishop Rock outside Southampton, Britain, in two days, 20 hours and nine minutes -- the first such voyage in under three days.

The 500 deadweight ton vessel's average speed was 39.897 nautical miles per hour (knots), Bertel Thomsen, information chief of Danish-Australian-owned Cat-Link Shipping, told Reuters by telephone.

The previous record of 38.877 knots was held by Spanish-registered Catalonia, a sister vessel of Cat-Link V.

On Saturday night, Cat-Link V and other vessels in the area received a call from the rescue coordination center in Halifax, Canada, to search for a single-engine small aircraft, which had sent out a May-Day signal during a westward cross-Atlantic flight.

"Cat-Link V turned around and went back against its course. It found wreckage and took it on board, but no survivors," Thomsen said.

"It lost two hours and 10 minutes," he said, adding that the estimated average speed would have been 41.205 knots without the incident.

Cat-Link V was due to arrive at Southampton at 1400 GMT on Monday flying the Blue Riband, a 30-meter banner. The riband and a coveted prize, "The Hales Trophy," are awarded to the fastest vessel over the Atlantic.

Thomsen said that an official of the trophy committee told him that Cat-Link V would receive the prize.

In 1838, when competition for the Blue Riband began, the cross-Atlantic record speed was eight knots. The Hales trophy was instituted by a British MP in the 1930s.

During its crossing, Cat-Link V also set another world record, covering 1,018.2 nautical miles in 24 hours, beating its own week-old record of 1,016 nautical miles set in the Caribbean Ocean, Thomsen said.

Cat-Link V, with capacity for 800 passengers and 200 cars, will be put on a regular route between the Danish ports of Kalundborg and Aarhus -- a ferry route vying for traffic between eastern and western Denmark with the new Great Belt fixed link.

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