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The BBC's Helen Callaghan
"The catamaran has been plagued by problems"
 real 56k

Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 14:51 GMT
Storm-hit catamaran crew rescued
Team Philips
Team Philips is preparing for a round the world race
The crew of Pete Goss's stricken superyacht Team Philips has been evacuated.

The seven-strong team has been taken aboard the German cargo ship Hoechst Express, which battled through high waves and 50-knot winds to reach the storm-damaged catamaran.

The mid-Atlantic rescue procedure took place about 800 miles west of Ireland, a spokeswoman at Team Philips mission control in Southampton said.

All of the crew, including skipper Pete Goss, is safe and well.

Pete Goss
Veteran skipper: Pete Goss
The deserted Team Philips would now be tracked by satellite from the mission control before a decision was made on what to do next, she added.

Coastguards had issued a mayday alert early on Sunday asking ships to assist the ocean racer after it was battered by giant waves in storm-force gales as it crossed the Atlantic.

Mr Goss agreed to evacuate the hi-tech craft when it was revealed that another powerful storm was heading towards her and could blow her up to 300 miles further away from help.

'Crew's best interests'

The crew was not said to be in immediate danger but Mark Orr, managing director of Goss Challenges, told BBC News 24 the mayday was an "act of prudence".

Team Philips had sustained damage after sailing in severe conditions on Saturday.

A series of large waves damaged her central pod, affecting the crew's ability to turn the vessel in storm conditions.

It's not a panic measure, it's a difficult decision we have taken in the interests of safety

Mark Orr
Mr Orr said he could not guarantee the safety of the seven-strong crew if it was left on board.

With a very severe storm predicted in the area later on Sunday - with winds of up to 50 knots - Mr Orr said it was in the crew's best interests that it be evacuated.

"We are not abandoning ship but the crew will be taken off," he said.

"It's a horrible, horrible decision to take, but there's seven guys on board, three of them have children and they're all young.

"It is a difficult decision but we have always underpinned this project with safety and seamanship."

The craft's bow snapped during trials in the Atlantic
Asked whether he thought the yacht would ever race again, Mr Orr said: "I would like to think so, but we cannot make that decision until we see the boat again, and we do not know when that will be.

The 120ft vessel is the size of the centre court at Wimbledon and cost 4m to build.

It was unveiled by the Queen in March but suffered a series of accidents during sea trials.

In its first outing, the craft's bow snapped off prompting concerns that its radical design may have been flawed.

She was re-launched having undergone 250,000 of repairs and strengthening, but a second sea trial in October ended after just a few hours when the vessel suffered a mast problem.

Mr Goss set sail on this latest sea trial on 2 December with team-mates Richard Tudor, 41, from north Wales, Andy Hindley, 35, of Twickenham, Alex Bennett, 23, of Torquay, Australian Paul Larsen, 30, Graham Goff, 40, of Chichester, West Sussex, and Phil Aikenhead.

They were due to arrive in Monaco on 13 December to join other competitors in The Race, a non-stop, round-the-world event starting from Barcelona on 31 December.

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