Maserati is swapping the bitumen for the deep blue by backing an attempt to set a new record for a trans-Atlantic crossing. A crew of seven, skippered by Giovanni Soldini, has set sail from the port of Cadiz in southwestern Spain in a super maxi yacht named after the Italian supercar manufacturer. They are headed for San Salvador in the Bahamas on a 3,884 nautical miles (4,469 miles/7,193 km) journey.

Previously, only large trimarans have made attempts on the trans-Atlantic record, so Maserati is endeavoring to set the first reference time for mono-hull boats. The current world record for the east-west crossing - which is also known as the Road of the discovery in honor of Christopher Columbus's 1492 crossing - in a trimaran set by Groupama 3 in 2007 is just under seven days, eleven hours. Christopher Columbus, by the way, took five weeks to cross the Atlantic in 1492.

Maserati set out in favorable conditions on February 2, although the crew says it isn't clear what will happen on the second half of the journey as the long-term forecasts just aren't reliable enough. The biggest problem they expect to face in the first half of the attempt is a high pressure area over the Azores, while in the second half they anticipate a series of fronts and depressions that could slow the boat down if the pressure is too low.

Maserati is a 70 foot (21 m) VOR70 (Volvo Ocean Race) mono-hull racing yacht that previously participated under a different name in the 2008-2009 round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race. It features a carbon mast over 98 ft (30 m) high, a canting keel, mobile water ballast tanks, forward canard fins, and composite material construction. It recently spent three months in dry dock shedding some 10 percent of its weight.

Although Maserati is best known for its luxury land vehicles and the yacht that bears its name isn't powered by a Maserati engine, the company has historical links with transportation of the marine variety that goes beyond its Poseidon's trident logo. As early as the 1930s, the Maserati brothers tested two paired 16-cylinder engines at sea, while a Maserati engine was used to claim five powerboat world championships in 1955. Maserati eight-cylinder engines also won 19 world, four European and ten Italian titles in various categories from 1957 to 1969.

The Maserati record attempt is being monitored by the World Sailing Speed Record Council and the yacht's progress can be followed here.