Goss launches Team PhilipsMother Nature makes the rules and when the River Dart lay flat calm this morning and Team Philips’ weather expert Lee Bruce called a worsening weather pattern, it was an easy decision for Pete Goss to announce a 1700 launch - on the 22nd September.
Never mind the global television networks that were working to bookings for news feeds on Saturday 23rd September, and that key sponsors and crowds of more than 40,000 are expected here in Totnes to watch the great re-launch. The important thing for Pete Goss and a crew that were so demoralised six months ago when their bow broke off after just a few days of sailing is to get the boat into operation, and to get some sea miles behind them.
The new Team Philips looks no different to the one that was launched back in March - at least from the outside. Inside, the monocoque hull has been peppered with ring frames and longitudinal top hat stringers that will have added around three tons of weight to a 16-tonne structure. Where before crewman Alex Bennett reckons he could deflect that bow by around 20 centimetres with all of his weight rocked against the hull, now that figure is much less than five.
But will it work? That is the question that everyone dockside has been asking and even now no one really knows the answer. ‘You can always build a boat strong enough but when you are trying to win races you have to push the limits,’ said builder Gary Venning as the boat was craned over his head towards the water at 1750 this evening. ‘I have the utmost confidence in what we’ve done but we will have to wait and see.’
‘It has been a tough six months,’ said Goss as the boat was tied to the quayside, ten feet above the water where it will rest - with the crew on board, two crane operators on standby and with an army of shore team - until 1230 tomorrow lunchtime. Then Team Philips will be lowered into the water and taken 11-miles to Dartmouth where she can be berthed when the tide goes out.
Over the next few days the boat will return to Totnes each day on the high tide for the masts and then the sails and wishbones to be fitted. Then the crew will sail for the first time - probably on Tuesday or Wednesday - when Lee Bruce reckons they could face some testing conditions in the English Channel. And in just over a week Goss hopes to be setting off across the Atlantic to New York on the first real test for Team Philips Mk II. ‘We’ll take it easy going over and then hope to give her a real tough test coming back,’ he said as he prepared for a damp night on board. ‘In some ways this has been a blessing for us because we have used the time to really test the rigs and really finish the boat off, and I have never seen a boat that is so well prepared.
Right now there is much less the air of excitement and showmanship that surrounded the first launching and naming by the Queen six months ago. The crew, the building team and even the army of helpers and supporters want to see the project get underway for real and for the radical concept to be proven. Everyone involved thinks the sums now stack up and the bird will fly. And if it doesn’t? If it fails again? ‘Well, we’ll all pack up and go home. It can’t happen again,’ said Goss.