Magical Mystery tour as Goss trusts in timber to round globe

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If you could bottle the boundless optimism that is Pete Goss then not only would a fortune be beckoning but the world would also be changed overnight.

The former Royal Marine has seen the highs and lows of the world's sporting stage. He has been invited to the Elysée Palace in Paris to be given the Légion d'Honneur, watched the Queen launch a gleaming new racing boat, and then seen that product of ambitious technology break up in big seas before ever reaching the start line – his crew having to be rescued – and been grilled by a sceptical press corps.

His latest project, after leading three expeditions to the North Pole, has been hatched from his home overlooking the east Cornwall countryside. If you can find it, you are also, probably, lost. The large garden is populated with sturdy furniture built by the hand of Goss. But it is nowhere near as sturdy as the 37-foot boat being built in his shed. It will weigh 17 tonnes when complete – a 70-foot Volvo round-the-world boat weighs less than 14 tonnes – and, in the spirit of the adage that in time of marine adversity the best move is to cling to the wreckage, any one of the frames would support 10 men.

Talking of spirit, the name of this replica fishing lugger is Spirit of Mystery, the original Mystery having left Newlyn in north Cornwall in November 1854 bound for Melbourne. Goss aims to do the same, starting at the end of October, also calling into Cape Town on the way.

Instead of the seven who crewed the original Mystery under the captaincy of the only experienced sailor among them, Captain Richard Nicholls, Goss will be the only experienced one of a quartet completed by his 14-year-old son Eliot, younger brother Andy and brother-in-law Mark.

In the middle of May, on the other side of the Tamar in Plymouth, the singlehanded Transat fleet will be gathering in Sutton Harbour to cross the Atlantic to Boston. Many will be qualifying for the Vendée Globe singlehanded non-stop round-the-world race starting from France on 11 November. It was in that race that Goss turned back to rescue Bruno Dubois from his upturned yacht in the Southern Ocean, hence the grateful summons from former French president Jacques Chirac.

By the time Goss reaches southern Spain, the Volvo race fleet will be setting out from Alicante, also bound for Cape Town. He will be glad to see them if he arrives in time, but will not be jealous of theirspeedy passage.

So why do it at all? Is this just self-indulgence? Only partly. "I've always wanted to build a wooden boat," he says, paying tribute to Chris Rees, whose brief is to incorporate frames from fallen Cornish oak, telegraph poles for masts, a bit of oak from Nelson's Victory, some teak from the Cutty Sark and a bit of rigging from the SS Great Britain.

The engine and woodburner stove "for Sunday roast every week" will be new and there will be some modern satellite communications equipment, but the principal navigation instrument will be an old-fashioned sextant.

The magnificent seven had left Newlyn in 1854 because Cornwall was suffering economically. Goss will be using the Mystery as part of his work in a project called "Cornwall – playing for success", contributing to a national initiative to use sport to help youngsters achieve more in numeracy, literacy and IT. "If you are asked to help, you can't say no," he explains.