✔✔✔✔✔ The Duke basketball team -- having beaten its opponent in China three times and a team in Dubai once -- is trying for one more victory: to beat Hurricane Irene's arrival in North Carolina.
The team and hangers-on aboard a chartered jet will fly home almost 12 hours early, sacrificing time in their $800 hotel rooms nestled on the Arabian Gulf.
Yes $800 a night. Single rate, one night includes taxes and service charge.
Originally scheduled into Raleigh Durham Airport at 4 PM Saturday, the new arrival time is 5:30 AM.
The chartered plane is a Boeing 757. While pilots have a great deal of discretion, the manufacturer's manual advises a cross-wind limit of 29 knots, or 33 miles an hour. The hurricane is most likely to cause far heavier winds when it strikes later in the day.
While the eye is likely to follow the shore-line north, the storm is unusually large -- with hurricane force winds of at least 74 miles an hour extending out 70 miles. Tropical force winds of at least 40 miles an hour extend 255 miles in all directions. The airport is roughly 100 miles from the shore-line.
The charter airline is thus hoping the Duke plane gets here just in time. Other options include holding the plane at its refueling stop (we believe in Anchorage) or seeking a safer airport inland.
✔Final basketball note: , since the uber expensive charter for the team and fans was first announced, FC has made a point of saying you really did not get very much for your money if you went along. Some Loyal Readers challenged our assertion that the jet was narrow-bodied with seating 3 and 3, meaning you had a 33 percent chance of being in a middle seat.
Well all of us were right; originally a 757 3-3 was scheduled. Then the plane was upgraded to a 767, which is 2-3-2 seat configuration. However, the 767 had a mechanical problem that kept it on the ground at Raleigh Durham, and 24 hours later, the 757 was substituted.
In describing the 757, FC said it had business class seats. This was wrong. The team members -- some approaching seven feet -- are wedged into a limited number of "premium economy" seats -- a little more leg room and a 2-2 configuration but still economy seats. This will also affect Coach K, whose contract gives him a private jet when he is not with the team.
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