Our route to success: heroic struggle against the odds

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Our sympathies, naturally, go out to Pete Goss and his £4m catamaran,
Team Philips, which is back in Totnes today after one of its 135ft-high masts began to sway rather too much; particularly since this setback to the mighty craft follows the calamity last March when a large part of the port bow fell off. The sea can be cruel.

Our sympathies, naturally, go out to Pete Goss and his £4m catamaran, Team Philips, which is back in Totnes today after one of its 135ft-high masts began to sway rather too much; particularly since this setback to the mighty craft follows the calamity last March when a large part of the port bow fell off. The sea can be cruel.

But we must also confess to an almost palpable sense of relief, too. All that success at the Olympics was becoming a bit of a strain. The stream of medal stories based on a smooth and planned professionalism and copious funding were all very well, but they did fight against most of the myths that we have cherished so jealously and so zealously for so long about the Island Race. And, of those, the strongest is the way that victory and success can be achieved only against the odds, with struggle eventually conquering muddle and misfortune.

It's a trick that has been worked since at least Crécy and Agincourt; its potency is best illustrated by the ease with which our high imperial armies managed to paint themselves as underdogs against opposing forces armed mainly with spears and loud shouts.

Only slightly behind that in the Albion Stereotype League is, of course, the gallant loser, a line stretching from Boudicca to Bruno, Frank. A good death used to help, too, at the moment of either victory (Wolfe, Nelson) or disaster (King Harold, Captain Scott), but that has rather fallen out of favour - although we wouldn't give too much for William Hague's chances after the next election.

So, cheer up, Pete: you're well on the way, win or lose this big race coming up in December. But if it's a win, make sure you come from behind. And now it's over to Wembley, Germany and a half-fit David Beckham.

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