A Southern Ocean voyage that puts modern races in the shade is in the offing


Pete Goss’s new boat Spirit of Mystery is to be launched from Millbrook in Cornwall in two weeks’ time (early evening of Saturday 21st, if you want to put it in your diary).

I’ve been down to the yard twice – if yard, as opposed to river bank, is the right word. It’s a project created entirely from scratch, because Pete and his team have built everything. They put down hard core on the quayside, pulled out fallen oak trees, set up a makeshift sawmill and even designed and erected a shed to cover the emerging frames of the boat.

Spirit of Mystery is a 37ft lug rigged yawl based on a modified fishing boat that was sailed from Newlyn in Cornwall to Melbourne in 1854 by a crew of friends and relatives in search of better fortunes. The recreation is a much more daring affair that it might at first seem.

First, Pete and his boatbuilder Chris Rees had to do a fair amount of detective work to puzzle out what Mystery would have looked like, as no pictures or references other than basic dimensions existed. Chris made an interpretation on the best information available, added in some safety factors and lofted his design in the village hall.

The thing to my mind that will make the Spirit of Mystery voyage so daring, particularly compared to modern Southern Ocean voyages, is that it will be a foray into the world’s worst weather.

It’s not that well known that modern sailors, crewed or solo, have both the means and the motive to avoid really bad weather. Their boats are so fast that they do not need true winds over 25 knots and the space age technology at their fingertips usually lets them avoid the worst storms or at least the worst quadrants of them.

Not so Pete Goss and the crew he’ll take: his brother, brother-in-law and his 14-year-old son. They will do as the original crew did and head south from Cape Town, pick up the 40th line of latitude and run it down (or is that up?) towards Melbourne, navigating with a sextant.

If they make a 200-mile day they will be positively hurtling. There will be no outrunning the weather. They will have to take winds and seas as they come, an idea that over the space of a little over a decade has become almost archaic. That demands strength from a boat that is fast going out of fashion in racing.

This is a truly fascinating project and, yes, of course I would say this, but to get the full story do pick up our July issue, which comes out next week.

Photo by www.lloyd-images_pg_YBW.com> Mark Lloyd