Sailing: Goss' new boat targets two records

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A pounds 4M British assault on both the record for sailing around the world followed by a no-holds-barred non-stop race, also around the world, which starts from Barcelona on 31 December 2000, was given its baptism on land yesterday.

In the specially constructed factory at Totnes, Devon, former marine Pete Goss, the man awarded the Legion d'Honneur for his rescue of Raphael Dinelli in the 1996 Vendee Globe Race, welcomed - with more than a hint of relief - his principal backers Dutch electronics group, Philips, on board.

They have put up half the budget, and the 120ft catamaran which holds Goss' hopes will carry their name as Team Philips, while BT and Sun Microsystems have each put up pounds 750,000.

The boat, which is an entirely new concept designed by Adrian Thompson with twin-wing masts, will be crewed by six, and Goss expects to launch it at Dartmouth on 12 January next year. It then has an ambitious, high- pressure programme of testing, including an initial Transatlantic run by the gentler southerly route, returning via the more blustery northerly route in the hope of breaking the west-east record.

This will be followed in March by an attempt to set a new around the world record and so win back from the French the Jules Verne Trophy.

Although the venture is rather later than normal in the seasonal cycle, Goss expects the boat to be so fast, reaching consistent speeds of 40 knots, that he will still be able to dig deep south, giving him the shortest distance round Antarctica before the short summer is over and the ice hazard returns.

It is not known how many rivals will be on the start line for the French- organised The Race in December, but the American balloonist Steve Fossett has already built a new catamaran, Playstation, and there are expected to be at least three new French boats.

Iain Percy leads the Finn class at the Pre-Olympic Regatta in Sydney. The Winchester medal hope has a five-point lead over the 1996 gold medallist Mateuz Kusnierewicz, of Poland, after seven of the 12 races.

In the Lasers, which did not race yesterday, Ben Ainslie is second to Gestavo Lima of Portugal, while Shirley Robertson is hoping to improve on her seventh in the Europe singlehander. Magriet Matthijsse, of the Netherlands, is the runaway leader in her class, having won five out of six races and discarding her worst result so far, a third. Ian Walker and Mark Covell are fourth overall in the Star, which is led by Australia's Colin Beashel.