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Pete Goss toasts winning Spirit after re-enacting epic sea voyage

10 March 2009

Pete Goss toasts winning Spirit after re-enacting epic sea voyage

A leading British sailor and his crew of three were toasting their success yesterday after completing a journey of 11,800 nautical miles from Cornwall to Australia in a 37ft (11m) wooden boat they built themselves.

Pete Goss, his brother Andy and his 14-year-old son Eliot were met in Williamstown harbour, Melbourne, by hundreds of wellwishers - and by the fourth member of the crew, Mark Maidment, Mr Goss's brother-in-law, who was airlifted off the boat a week earlier after breaking his leg in a violent storm.

Mr Goss, 46, navigated by the stars in a boat that is an exact replica of the 19th-century Cornish lugger Mystery, which made the same journey more than 150 years ago. Like its predecessor, Mr Goss's boat, Spirit of Mystery, has only the most basic facilities.

The crewmen of the original Mystery were seven unemployed Cornish miners who set off to join the Australian gold rush in 1854. They took 116 days to reach their destination - but, by the time they did, the gold rush was all but over.

“I feel tremendously proud of my family for following the achievement of those men before us. A year and a half ago we were stood in a forest with a chainsaw in one hand and this daft idea to build a boat. I sat down at dinner and told my wife and the children about it. I asked Eliot if he fancied coming too and he said, ‘Well I've got nothing else on, Dad'. When the last storm hit he was a 14-year-old boy doing a man's work. I'm so immensely proud of him.”

Describing the moment they sailed into Melbourne, Mr Goss said: “We were surrounded by hundreds of boats and wellwishers. The most wonderful thing is that some direct descendants of the original crew of the Mystery came to meet us. We have to remember that we were doing this because we love it, and we enjoyed almost every bit of it. But for the first seven men it was an exhausting, desperate attempt to improve their lot in life.”

For Eliot the highlight of the voyage was seeing a pod of whales swimming around the boat.

Mr Goss, who has clocked up more than 250,000 nautical miles at sea, was inspired to make the trip by the original crew and their traditional methods. He said: “Their story got right under my skin. I wanted to shine a light on these guys' achievements - and I have always wanted to build a wooden boat. People go on about navigation, but modern equipment is only an aid to navigation. Traditional sailing has been going for far longer than the modern stuff.”

Mr Goss, who was appointed MBE and made a member of France's Legion d'honneur, has competed in six transatlantic and two round-the-world races. He is now planning to spend time with his wife Tracey, and daughters Olivia and Libby.

Simon de Bruxelles, Times Online