Team Philips still adrift

Pete Goss and his crew continue to Nova Scotia, as managing director Mark Orr says the boat is still floating, story by Tim Jeffery/Quokka Sports

Wednesday December 13th 2000, Author: Tim Jeffery, Location: United Kingdom
The same severe North Atlantic weather that knocked out Team Philips’ steering has slowed the 294 metre long container ship which rescued Pete Goss and his six crew mates. The German Hoechst Express’ ETA in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has slipped back to Thursday morning.

Link to QuokkaSailing.comGoss' shore team, working from their mission control in Southampton, are continuing to interrogate the 120-foot catamaran by pinging the boat's big Standard C satcom dome and she still appears to be upright and drifting slowly.

Goss Challenge's managing director Mark Orr says he will not comment on any insurance or sponsorship issues until Goss reaches Canada. "A lot of things will happen once Pete is ashore," explained Orr.

One problem hindering Goss' people is that their only means of communicating with the ship is via sparse Telex messages. Even the families of the seven crew have not been able to speak to them since their final calls made from Team Philips shortly before her evacuation on early Sunday morning.

Apparently Goss' No. 2, Andy Hindley - something of an Inspector Gadget - is attempting to fix the Hoechst Express' Standard B satcom. "He's got nothing else to do!" joked Orr.

Orr did confirm this afternoon that, thus far, no vessel has yet been contracted for a salvage attempt.

"What we are attempting to do is to get some aerial reconnaissance of Team Philips to give us a basis on which to make decisions."

Clearly towing a 22-ton catamaran, with high windage, skittish tendencies and tricky structure to which to attach lines is no simple undertaking - especially in December. There are continuing worries that the giant twin-rig catamaran might have sustained damage in the rescue attempt.

An interesting posting in the discussion forum of the Team Philips' website apparently comes from Flt. Lt. Nick Stokes, in command of the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft which co-ordinated the Hoechst Express operation. It talks of Team Philips coming alongside the ship heavily.

"The weather was lousy," wrote Stokes. "We had a swell between 15 and 20 feet, with heavy rain and low cloud. It was pitch black and it made getting [the] TP crew onto the ship very difficult. One slip and they could have ended up in the sea or, even worse, between the two vessels."

This suggests a slightly different version of rescue as explained by Mark Orr on Sunday, which had the crew swimming between the two vessels. There was no mention of contact.

"Our job was to provide the cover and radio relay between the two ships," Stokes' message continued. "We were also there in case the yacht started sinking. There was a big element of danger for the TP crew. The two vessels were up alongside each other and they touched from time to time. TP's first two crew members were pulled up on ropes but it was getting a bit hairy and Pete was saying 'I'm not very happy about this.' because the ships were banging into each other. He was getting worried about his mast collapsing. So they opened a hatch half-way up the hull and threw a net down the side. Pete was a bit down at the thought of leaving his yacht but the safety of his crew was his main priority. He was tired. You could tell by his voice, but there was a sense of relief that everyone was safe."

The Team Philips forum is brimming with comment. Much is supportive. Some is not. And a few instances are rude and downright derogatory.

One message is very touching. It has triggered an avalanche of goodwill. It was posted by one of Goss' three children. His 12-year-old daughter Alex wrote:

"It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. I love my dad and I am proud of him."

First published on, republished with permission.

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