Photos: AFP

Pete Goss looks ahead to the Route du Rhum

British offshore hero arrives in St Malo

Sunday October 24th 2010, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: France

Arriving in Saint Malo Friday, Pete Goss is back in the world of solo ocean racing after a 13 year absence. It is not in any way that his epic 1996 Vendee Globe experience, fighting back upwind for two days in hurricane force winds to rescue Raphael Dinelli from a liferaft in the Southern Ocean, closed his chapter of solo and short handed racing. In fact Goss's life of adventure has followed a zig zag course, which has been driven by diverse ambitions and varied opportunities and, and neither have really focussed his attentions back to solo racing since then. Until now.

He still describes solo ocean racing as his first love.

His return, for his first ever Route du Rhum, is an entirely unexpected opportunity. He was approached out of the blue by a successful British entrepreneur Tony Lawson who offered him the chance to do this race as part of a double-edged programme for Team Concise.

Lawson's objective is to help bring on younger British skippers and crew by giving them a top level platform to compete offshore with. This is the second year of the programme and Concise 2 is their second Class 40, a new Marc Lombard Akilaria design.

Already last year the young crew won the Class 40 World Championships, and this year with the new boat they won the Class 40 division in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race.

Goss' role within the team is to help, where he can, with coaching, mentoring and helping develop the short handed racing side of the programme, but with it comes the opportunity to take part in his first Route du Rhum.

Despite his relative lack of time on the boat, which so far probably amounts to less than 20 days in total and maybe 2000 miles – including delivering the boat to Gijon for the 2010 world championships Goss says he feels completely at home on the boat, as he might with some 250,000 ocean miles under his belt.

“Some boats like to please you and others you feel like you have to work for every mile, and this is a very happy boat. I am really delighted with her and could not really want for anything else. The miles I have done have been quality miles, though I have to say we have not been through a big blow, but I feel like with the experience I have that does not worry me too much,” says Goss over a characteristic cup of tea in the cabin in DMS Pack It In.

“The Route du Rhum is absolutely one of the great races. I have always wanted to do it, but really never expected to be here, so how lucky am I to be here with this lovely boat? One element which is really exciting is being in the Class 40s. When the class was proposed I really thought what a great idea it was as a stepping stone, and here we are with 46 boats, so it's kind of epic racing.”

Goss, 49, surveys the fleet packed cheek by jowl into the basin and cheerily confesses he is completely out of touch with who his competition in the flourishing class is, even asking who the ‘favourites' might be, but does re-affirm how much he loves the solo racing discipline.

“I don't have a career as such. I have a series of daft ideas which follow one another, but there is a thread between them. But I certainly like and thrive on variety, so that spans the Vendée Globe, Team Philips, British Steel Challenge, and the most recent sailing a 37 foot replica fishing lugger from Cornwall to Melbourne. And that started with a chainsaw looking for fallen oak trees to make the frames. It was an amazing project and I have been to the North Pole a few times, but I must say – and perhaps I am realising now – single handed sailing is perhaps my first love and you always come back to that.”

It is strangely ironic that this Route du Rhum La Banque Postale really only features two die-hard British skippers, Goss and Richard Tolkien both forerunners, in their own way, for following generations of solo and short handed sailors.

“I am certainly saddened to find us the only Brits," continues Goss. "You kind of wonder where all the youngsters are who should be cutting their teeth. It has been very hard to see them not here. It is very sad. But for us their really is an ulterior goal with Team Concise to try and help these youngsters, and so it would be great to see Tom Gall who is the boat captain, for there to be a vehicle like this to offer a platform for him to work from. I can think of nothing better than at the next skippers' launch for a big race in Paris, for Tom to be there in his own right, and me to be sat in the audience. And it is terrible that Phil Sharp (who won the class last time) is not here, terrible. But I do think the Class 40s are a great stepping stone.”

Goss is objective about his prospects, admitting that he is fiercely competitive and raring to go: “If I finish in the top third I'd be happy. The reality is that I have hardly sailed a Class 40 and I will be ready at the end of this Route du Rhum. When you compare to these guys then a lot are full time professionals, who will have stuck a couple of Transatlantics under their belts, then they have a really intimate relationship with their boats, but on the other hand, but on the other it is about one person up against the elements alone and that smooths out a lot of these things. I have no idea how I will get on.”

Meanwhile the 86 skippers had their first official appointment of the pre-start week with the inaugural safety briefing, recalling all the principal safety at sea recommendations and reminder of rescue protocols to be followed.

The Race Village was officially opened at 1100hrs (CET) in the presence of Rene Couanau, the mayor of Saint-Malo and the Deputy of Ile-et-Vilaine, Jean-Yves Le Drian, President of the Brittany area, Sylvie Foll, Director of Communciations of La Banque Postaleand Pierre Bojic, Managing director of Pen Duick.

The news was not good for Pierre-Yves Lautro after the specialist surveyors inspected his Class 40 which was damaged, hit by a fishing boat during the delivery sail to Saint Malo. Their recommendation is that L'Express Sapmer cannot be safely repaired before the start, and so the skipper is seeking to find a replacement and an announcement will be made during the early part of next week.

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