Book of the week: Strange mix of Goss' cocktail of optimism

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Close to the Wind (Headline, pounds 18.99) by Pete Goss

IT IS quite likely that the name of Pete Goss will become much more widely known over the next four or five years, especially in Britain. He is on the verge of becoming a "property", a commodity, a brand, and if that happens then a lot of people will be sending out for a copy of Close to the Wind to see if they can find out a little more about him.

They will be richly rewarded, so here is an opportunity to be in on the ground floor of understanding how an achiever ticks. In future, also, Goss himself may regret a little just how honest he has been. He knows how to play hardball, no doubt, but on the evidence of all he has written he would not be in the top echelons of poker players.

If written by someone else about him, the script would too often seem unbelievable, but it is true. If written by some other people about themselves, it would either have slipped into the turgid or been so brazenly boastful that it would have been unacceptable. Goss avoids both, but not just because of his honesty but because he has a genuine talent for writing tense narrative.

Goss is neither a fool nor an angel, but he has no fear of treading a path that defies rational analysis. It comes straight from the heart. Lord knows who put together the chemical mix that fashions his character, but, if he could sell it, he would be a millionaire by Christmas. To say that it has produced boundless optimism would be a pathetic understatement of the cocktail that drives this man. Even his moments of despair are conducted in the most character-building positive light.

If the book has a fault it is that it shamelessly rolls the credits for all those who have ever helped him take on the projects which are his life, sailing some of the earth's most difficult oceans on the edge of losing his life. Even this, however, is explained. He says he has studied carefully how to approach potential sponsors and backers, so a little extra massage in print is to be expected.

What may not be expected is the way in which Goss takes you so vividly on board with him at his worst moments, including some pretty gory self- surgery. Nothing Ian Fleming ever wrote has you wondering so anxiously how the hero is going to get out of this little pickle.

Whether it be transatlantic or, most spectacularly in the rescue of Frenchman Raphael Dinelli in the Southern Ocean, for which he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, the book would be worth buying just for those chapters. The bonus is trailered on the jacket. A triumph over adversity it says. Yes, but often that adversity was ashore. Goss's experience teaches us all a lesson.

Even the title has a double meaning. Close to the wind is generally interpreted as taking risk or being in danger. But when a boat is sailing too close to the wind it slows down, can grind to a halt, even change to a direction you did not want. Lots of people have dreams and ideas. That is the easy bit. Making them happen is the hard part. There can never be too many examples. No wonder he is being pencilled in as front man for a future British America's Cup campaign.