1330 Thursday, 14 December
At 0115GMT this morning, Pete Goss and the six crew rescued from the stricken catamaran Team Philips arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on board the container ship Hoechst Express.
Details are slowly emerging about Goss’ reasons for abandoning the giant catamaran in mid-Atlantic. At a press conference following his arrival in Halifax, Goss described the conditions on board prior to their rescue. “The wind just went through the roof. It went up to storm 11, gusting hurricane 12 easily. A huge sea built up and what we had to do was run from it. It was steer for your life.” It appears that a wave destroyed part of Team Philips‘s central pod slung high in the air between the fore and aft cross beams. This compromised the living quarters, where the navigation and communications gear is housed and more crucially the steering mechanism and the hydraulics operating it mounted in the cockpit.
With the crew safely ashore and flying back to the UK tonight, the focus now turns to salvaging the boat. This will be an exceedingly difficult operation. Team Philips is a long way from shore – she was abandoned four days ago while 900 miles WNW of Land’s End. In the middle of December this part of the Atlantic is a treacherous place for any vessel, as numerous intense depressions track across the ocean bringing the huge winds and giant seas that caused the damage to Team Philips in the first place.
If Goss’ salvage team find Team Philips then they face a real dilemma over how to recover her. There has been much talk about getting a salvage vessel out there to tow the boat to safety, but given the distance from shore and the likely weather a salvage team would encounter this would be nearly impossible. Even if a vessel did manage to get a line on board Team Philips, she has damaged steering and can sail at 12 knots with no sails up. In short she would be an unmanageable, dangerous tow. An option might be to tow the boat with her ‘brakes’ on, although this would place colossal loads on her structure. Prior to abandoning Team Philips Goss and his crew deployed warps and a sea anchor to slow her passage. Mark Orr, MD of Goss Challenges says that she is now drifting at 2-4 knots.
Another possibility, but an equally daunting option would be to get a team out to her, equipped to repair her at sea before sailing her back to port.
Obviously a salvage operation, involving a tow or repairs would only be possible if there is something left to salvage. Unmanned it is possible that anything could happen on board. The boat could lose one or both of its giant freestanding, unstayed rotating masts. Its structure may have been broken up by the waves . Most likely is the 120 by 70ft wide catamaran may have been picked up by a wave and capsized, although the chances of this are less likely with the sea anchor deployed. Mark Orr believes that no salvage operation will be possible for at least a week, prior to which they will send a spotter plane up to check on the wreck. However before then the boat is expected to encounter more hurricane force winds and waves and the longer it is left to its own devices the less likelihood there is of a successful recovery.
There have also been rumours about third party salvage teams trying to recover the boat to claim the lucrative salvage fees (see Elaine Bunting’s story further down this newsdesk) from Goss Challenges and her insurers Willis. Although it cost less for Goss’ own team to build, Team Philips’ value is guestimated to be around 4 million pounds. Under the International Convention on Salvage 1989, a salvage team’s reward is based on the value of the craft, the measure of their success in recovering the stricken vessel, the degree of danger involved, the time and expense incurred and their promptness. Edmund Whelan, legal expert at the Royal Yachting Association says that salvage can occasionally