Time is running out for Team Philips after mishap with mast

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The Independent Online

Pete Goss's futuristic ocean-racing catamaran was back on the water yesterday - but with only one of its two masts in place after another bizarre accident threatened its future once again.

Pete Goss's futuristic ocean-racing catamaran was back on the water yesterday - but with only one of its two masts in place after another bizarre accident threatened its future once again.

Time is running short for Mr Goss, who needs to complete a set of sea trials before sailing to Barcelona by 19 December to take part in a round-the-world race beginning on New Year's Eve.

The £4m Team Philips boat was being equipped with its two masts, each 135ft tall and weighing 1.5 tons, when the accident happened yesterday. At 4am the boat was at its build site in Totnes, Devon, on the river Dart.

The port mast was lifted by crane and inserted into its retainer but, when the starboard mast was being moved, it slipped off its carrying trolley and damaged the faring, which is essential to the boat's aerodynamic performance. This meant that the mast could not be put in at the factory, thus forcing the boat to retreat down-river to Dartmouth as the tide went out.

Although the faring can be repaired at once, the wind is forecast to be too high to allow another try until at least Thursday, when an attempt will begin at 7am.

Team Philips has already suffered in its first sea trials when its bow snapped, forcing the boat to limp into port. Later, a bearing on the port mast developed problems and recently one of the six crew resigned. The team has lost valuable time needed to complete sea trials to prove the boat's ability to withstand heavy seas and storms.

Yesterday Mr Goss was confident he could complete the trials on schedule, but he admitted that "time is definitely tight".

The three-day delay will allow him to continue searching for a replacement for Michael Calvin, a crew member and journalist who resigned at the end of last month because, Mr Goss said, "he had a crisis of confidence with the boat and the timetable that we had set ourselves".

Mr Goss added that there was no shortage of people wanting to join the crew. "What we need ... is someone with seamanship, a veteran who's easy-going and will fit in on a round-the-world trip." A new crew member is due to be announced by the end of November.

The keels of the 120ft catamaran are 3ft deep and 70ft apart. The crew's quarters are in a pod between the two thin hulls, 14ft above the sea.

Team Philips hopes to enter the round-the-world race beginning from Barcelona, which, for the first time, will have no rules about the size or construction of the boats and will be a no-holds-barred dash to the finish line.

"The first thing is to get round all in one piece with no injuries," Mr Goss said.

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