Thompson admits Team Philips design failings

Adrian Thompson says Team Philips failed as a safe vessel at sea

Thursday December 14th 2000, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
Adrian Thompson, the principal designer of Team Philips, has admitted that the maxi-cat failed to provide what he called a "basic safe environment for survival" during the ill-fated voyage into the north Atlantic which ended with Pete Goss and his crew abandoning the boat.

In a remarkably frank article on the Team Philips website, Thompson also accepts that his design may be seriously flawed, something which would have long-lasting consequences for him personally. "Team Philips may have some design features that do work well but need further development," he said. "I can assure you the crew will not spare me the details. If the concept is wrong, it will certainly remain as a bitter disappointment for the rest of my life, as it's my design concept and therefore my responsibility."

Thompson said his main emotion, when he heard what had happened during that raging storm in the Atlantic, was relief that all the crew were safe and on their way to Nova Scotia. But he also admitted that Team Philips had failed to protect her crew when the aft end of the central pod failed after being hit by three big waves.

"The boat, which has stretched emotions, budgets and credibility over the last two years, did not, I'm sad to say, provide the basic safe environment for survival that it should have done and was designed to do. And that is the greatest disappointment for me," said Thompson.

Thompson explained that the original philosophy behind the project was to design a boat that was both fast and as safe as possible within the constraints of ocean racing. "The design elements chosen are not novel for the sake of defying convention," he said, "neither were they selected to be sensational. The final design was simply the solution that I was comfortable with, which I thought would combine speed with safety. The ability to de-power the rigs and therefore introduce an element of safety, which appeared to be in question with a stayed mast version, determined the overall design concept. "

Thompson notes that much has been written about Team Philips's wave-piercing hulls, free-standing masts and other conceptual differences which do not appear on more conventional cats, but he argues that none of the boats of this size built for The Race could fairly be termed 'conventional'. "The term 'radical', often used to describe Team Philips, can, of course, turn quickly from compliment to criticism and fair enough. It's that kind of project where success or failure is displayed for all to observe and comment on," he adds.

Thompson went on to reflect on the roller-coaster ride which everyone involved with Team Philips has endured spanning moments of great elation and achievement but also times of utter despair. "It's been a very rough ride for the entire team," he said. "Within that team I include sponsors, builders, visitor centre staff, PR people, forum contributors and all the many thousands of people who have embraced this project. The early failure of the bow and the recent problem with one of the masts has required enormous resilience and support from the entire team. Unconditional support has always been given, which I think is fantastic and something we shall always recall in the future."

Thompson ends with some reflections on progress. "Advancing technology can be a painful and precarious process at times, but without progress of some sort during the span or our occupancy in this world, we would no doubt be still grunting or clubbing one another. The only clubbing I've had so far, thankfully, is verbal, which I guess we must put down to progress of some sort."

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