Goss ready for the off

Ocean racing hero to set sail for Melbourne on his 37ft Mounts Bay lugger Spirit of Mystery imminently

Wednesday October 15th 2008, Author: Stuart Elford, Location: United Kingdom
After months of building, testing and training, the waiting is nearly over for Pete Goss and his crew as they prepare to set sail for Australia.

The 37ft Mounts Bay lugger, Spirit of Mystery, is currently at the Falmouth Oyster Festival and will be sailed to Newlyn (from where the original Mystery set sail 154 years ago) on Sunday 19 October. As soon as the wind swings round from the North, the crew of four will slip their mooring and set sail on their epic 11,000-mile voyage, following in the wake of those intrepid Cornishmen who sought out a new life in the Australian gold rush.

Leaving Newlyn on Saturday 18 November 1854, the Mystery travelled about 11,800 nautical miles in 116 days before arriving in Melbourne on 14 March 1855. Like the crew of the original Mystery, who were all related by blood or marriage, it is a family affair, comprising: Pete Goss; his younger brother Andy; Pete’s youngest son Eliot (who is 14); and Pete’s brother-in-law Mark Maidment.

Pete Goss said: “This project has been a long time in the making and now we can’t wait to set sail. It has been a hectic time but everything has fallen into place. Some projects are meant to be and we are confident that the boat, crew and support team are ready for the voyage. We just want to slip our lines and head for the freedom of the ocean.”

Despite the excitement, the crew is under no illusions about the task that lies ahead of them. A log entry from 6 March 1855 gives a taste of what the original crew of Mystery encountered: ‘A terrific gale of wind - heaviest so far experienced. Our gallant little boat rides the mountains of sea remarkably well.’

Spirit of Mystery is fitted with a satellite tracking device so that its progress can be monitored via Pete’s website. Using technology supplied by Google Earth and Sailblogs, it will be possible to read daily log entries alongside those of the original voyage as the team battle the elements to steer their little wooden boat through the Atlantic and Southern Oceans to Australia.

Although technology will allow us to see their position accurately, read the log and look at pictures and video from the boat, it will be a different matter for the crew, who will navigate only by the stars. Comparing log entries will be fascinating for everyone following the project, not least the children from the Cornwall Playing for Success Charity, of which Pete is a founding trustee.

But it is not a race as Pete is quick to point out: “Nothing should detract from the amazing feat of seamanship of those brave Cornishmen who risked everything in search of a better life. A voyage of this type was unheard of at the time; Joshua Slocum, considered the father of small boat ocean sailing, was just ten when they set off, so this truly was a massive undertaking.

“This project is designed to shine a light on their achievement and raise awareness and funds for Cornwall Playing for Success. Children from the out of school hours initiative will follow the adventure and learn about local and social history, boat building, navigation and a host of other subjects as part of the ‘Sense of Place’ program.”

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