Goss fights to be shipshape

You have to be fit for strife on the ocean waves to race around the world in under 80 days

These are tense days for the six members of the Goss Challenge crew. Their boat, 120 feet of Formula One flying machine, is a month away from launch, a thousand niggly little details still have to be sorted out, yet the stomach is just beginning to tighten at the prospects ahead.

These are tense days for the six members of the Goss Challenge crew. Their boat, 120 feet of Formula One flying machine, is a month away from launch, a thousand niggly little details still have to be sorted out, yet the stomach is just beginning to tighten at the prospects ahead.

In March, they will tackle the round the world record of 71 days and 14 hours for the Jules Verne Trophy; then on the stroke of midnight 2000-2001, they will sail out of Gibraltar at the start of The Race, a French-inspired dash around the globe for yachts of any size, design or nationality. The rules are pretty simple: turn left at the Atlantic, first back wins.

The emotions of all six, from skilled yachtsmen like Goss, who received the Légion d'honneur from the French government for his rescue of Raphael Dinelli on the 1996 Vendée Globe single-handed race, to enthusiastic amateurs like Mike Calvin, a sports feature writer with the Mail on Sunday, can be located somewhere in that vortex of uncertainty which lies between the commands of "ready" and "steady". Last week, in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside, just about as far away from the sea as the geography of an island nation allows, the crew gathered at the Benetton highperformance laboratory to monitor fitness and do a bit of bonding. They even had a makeshift enemy to enhance their sense of camaraderie, one Bernie Shrosbree, former member of the Marines and the SAS, Nordic skier, triathlete, canoeist, marathon runner and general hard nut. No one could mistake the harsh tones of Shrosbree for the gentle lapping of the waves against the shore.

The parallels between driving 530kg of Formula One car round the streets of Monte Carlo for 90 minutes and sailing a catamaran around the world in 80 days were not readily apparent until Alex Bennett, the youngest and most powerfully built member of the crew, thrashed the life out of a step machine and then confronted the reflex board. The exercise tests not only reaction speeds but agility and peripheral vision. To reach the outer of three rows of buttons laid out like a noughts and crosses grid, you have to stretch. When the button lights up, you press it.

Alert and fit, Bennett achieves a score of 60 in a minute, which is pretty reasonable. Giancarlo Fisichella, the talented young Benetton driver, holds the record of 88. But in a state of near exhaustion after the step machine, Bennett's fumbling attempts to locate and press the buttons make him resemble a drunken spider trying to track down a particularly elusive fly. It is an extraordinary demonstration of how quickly the brain can disintegrate under physical pressure. Bennett, who has just sailed his 21ft yacht to a highly respectable fifth place in the recent mini-Transatlantic race, is suitably chastened by his diminished score of 42. Lesson one learnt: pace yourself.

Formula One drivers need to have the build of a jockey, the forearms and wrists of a darts player, the neck muscles of a prop forward, the stamina of a marathon runner and a ballet dancer's suppleness in the ankle joints. In one exercise, Fisichella sits on a red bouncing ball in full race gear with his helmet attached by wire to weights on either side. Not exactly hi-tech, but the nervous movements of the ball precisely recreate the twitchiness of a Formula One car at high speed, while the weights work to develop the ability of the neck muscles to withstand enormous G-forces.

Benetton are the first team to develop their own in-house performance lab. During a race, the Italian's heart rate will average 140-160 beats a minute, rising to 200 in moments of extreme tension, which puts him in the same category of stress as a marathon runner or a Tour de France cyclist. He is wedged in a tiny cockpit, yet no amount of discomfort must affect his levels of co-ordination or concentration.

It is the ability to balance extreme physical exertion with logical thinking and delicate manoeuvring that Shrosbree is trying to drill into his new sailing recruits. It is what he calls total body conditioning. "When you haven't had any sleep and you're trying to do the most basic task like making a cup of tea for the crew," he says.

Being sailing fit, Goss calls it. "You will lose weight because the cold and the sea grinds it out of you. You need power and a bit of padding and you need to be supple. You're static for long periods and then you take explosive exercise, pulling down a sail or whatever. This is good because it's making us think about our fitness. This boat is a real man-eater and it ain't going to wait for us."

Visualisation is another technique favoured by Shrosbree. "Being able to see what might happen can help you focus when you're tired," he says. Fisichella's powers of visualisation are so acute he can sit on the ball, turning an imaginary steering wheel, working the pedals like a child at play and, in his mind's eye, lap Monaco to within two seconds of his true qualifying time last season.

Under pressure, Goss's crew will have to react no less instinctively than Fisichella. "We're going to be leaping off a wave at 40mph in pitch black in the Southern Ocean and no one can afford to freeze mentally," Goss says. Merely steering the boat requires the sensitivity of a racing driver. "It's going to be a matter of discipline, strong teamwork, openness. We've got no room for egos. Everyone is going to have a bad day and it will be up to him to talk about it and up to the rest of us to dig deep and lift him. Understanding your limits is half the battle."

When the boat hits the water for the first time at 7.30am on 12 January and starts its journey down the River Dart, the spotlight will switch from the drawing board to flesh and blood and the pace of the project will quicken. "I can't wait," says Goss. "I just want to get on the boat and get out to sea." Somewhere, at least, where Bernie Shrosbree's fitness regime will be out of sight, if not out of mind.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn