A chunk of the ill-fated catamaran’s accommodation pod is sighted after nearly six months adrift

A part of Pete Goss’s Team Philips catamaran was found floating off the west coast of Ireland last night, the first sign of the boat since Goss and his crew abandoned her on 10 December last year. At 2107GMT last night a floating object assumed to have been part of hull was towed by the Thorchaser, which was standing by a survey vessel towing a 6km cable. In a report to Malin Coastguard, they said they had towed it to 54° 33N, 10° 36W, 24 miles west-north-west of Eagle Island, County Mayo. There they released it again.

Thorchaser reported that the piece was 7m long by 1.5m wide, grey in colour and had writing which at first they could not determine. Having figured out that the letters made up the slogan ‘Let’s make things better’, the crew of the survey vessel, Geo-Pacific, connected to the internet and deduced that it had must have been part of Team Philips.

There has been speculation that the piece was from the port bow, which was hit as Pete Goss and his crew were rescued by a German freighter. As Goss and his crew scrambled aboard the ship, Team Philips surged alongside on 50ft seas, damaging the port bow, on which the slogan ‘Let’s make things better’ was painted.

But the bow was painted blue, and the words were in larger letters that were not contained in a 7m section, so the grey piece found yesterday was almost certainly part of the accommodation pod. This was painted silver and the top was emblazoned with a smaller version of the ‘Let’s make things better’ slogan. It was damage to the pod that forced Goss and his crew to abandon Team Philips. The piece found is a large part of the pod, which was 15m long.

Former crewmember Alex Bennet is one of those who feels sure this is what was found last night: “The accommodation pod was definitely breaking off when we left,” he says. “There were cracks propaging all around the aft beam and forward beam fairings and the joins and internally around it. It was clear it was going to exit the boat soon. It has obviously since severed off.”

Despite the find, Bennet thinks the yacht, or large parts of her, are still out there. “It could absolutely still be drifting around. It can’t sink. Even if you chopped it up into 100 bits it would still float.” He points out that the carbon/Nomex structure has inherent buoyancy and claims that the 135ft masts, made from high density foam and carbon, each have 20 tonnes of buoyancy. Team Philips could break up and separate, he believes, but the elements should still be afloat.

Team Philips’s last known position on 18 December, tracked by Falmouth Coastguard from EPIRB signals, was about 700 miles west of Ireland. With prevailing south-westerly winds the yacht or any part of her might have been expected to fetch up further north, but whatever the circuitous route, part of her has ended up nearly 700 miles due east after almost six months adrift.