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Shirley Robertson: Tales from Sailing Folk Lore with British Adventurer Pete Goss

by Shirley Robertson 5 Mar 18:07 PST 6 March 2024
Pete Goss rescues fellow competitor Raphael Dinelli in 1996/97 Vendée Globe © Global Solo Challenge

This month, Shirley Robertson's Sailing Podcast talks to British offshore adventurer Pete Goss, an accomplished offshore sailor famed for executing one of the bravest solo ocean rescues of all time.

Talking at his home in the south west corner of the UK, Robertson and Goss kick their discussion off with chat about his formative years, his time in the British Marines, and how, in the nineteen nineties, he found a love of offshore sailing through Chay Blyth's British Steel Challenge, a round the world yacht race that was the forbearer to today's amateur offshore circumnavigation events. Goss was an instructor and skipper on the first event, and it was during that time, he hatched a plan to enter the Vendee Globe, the legendary non stop solo offshore race also, in the mid nineties, in it's infancy.

As one of the first British entrants in the then famously French race, Goss' tales of pre-internet sponsorship gathering are inspiring, and with a new boat, he managed to make the start line, for the third running of the race. What followed was one of the most brutal editions the Vendee Globe has ever seen. Of the sixteen boats that crossed the start line, just six finished. Tragically, one competitor, Canadian Gerry Roufs was lost at sea, but it was the rescue of French sailor Raphael Dinelli that for several days between Christmas and New Year 1996, was headline news around the world.

Pete's telling of the rescue, his memories of the vicious Southern Ocean storm, and his fight to find Dinelli's rapidly sinking boat are compelling. At times emotional, Goss describes how he first heard the mayday while himself fighting for survival in the relentless storm, and how his radio comms with the Royal Australian Airforce eventually led him to the boat...:

"The plane that had dropped him a raft came down to me, and they came up on the VHF so I remember chatting to them, and I said 'How many people are involved', because I was still seventy miles away or whatever, 'how many people are involved in the rescue', and he just said 'It's you!'"

With guidance from the Royal Australian Airforce plane, Goss found Dinelli's life raft and in a heaving Southern Ocean swell, somehow effected the rescue of a near death Raphael Dinelli. He had arrived just in time...: "I met the pilot and the navigator (of the RAAF plane) a year later at the boat show and from the air they saw this figure clamber into the raft and then the boat just ghosted away and disappeared underneath it."

It's an emotional and intense telling of a remarkable story, that continues into the second part of this two part podcast, as Pete sails on, determined to finish his Vendee Globe.

His return saw him awarded an MBE from Her Majesty the Queen, and the Legion d'Honneur by then French President Jacques Chirac. Undeterred, Goss immediately launched his next project, taking part in Bruno Peyron's ambitious concept, "The Race".

To take on the no-rules round the world challenge, Goss built one of the most futuristic race boats the sport had ever seen. His insights into the project, and the theories behind his Team Philips multihull are fascinating. With an educational division and a free visitors' centre that saw over 1.2million visitors, Pete's pride in the project is clear to see. Sadly, just weeks before the New Year start of The Race, the project abruptly ended, after the catastrophic loss of the catamaran in a violent North Atlantic storm.

Throughout his career Pete Goss has embarked on a multitude of groundbreaking projects, and while this edition sees him concentrate on two of his more famous endeavours, he also discusses the delightful "Spirit of Mystery" project, a challenge born from Cornish folk lore that ended up in the recreation of one of the bravest offshore navigations of the 1800s.

This edition of the podcast is in two parts and is available to listen to via the podcast page of Shirley’s own website - www.shirleyrobertson.com/podcast or via most popular podcast outlets, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast and aCast. The podcast is produced and written by Tim Butt.

Episode 1

Episode 2

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