Pete's Questions & Answers

What is the most exciting experience or adventure you have had to date?

Having been involved in about eighteen varied and challenging projects it’s very hard to come up with the most exciting experience as every project has its moment. Sailing in the Southern Ocean has to be up there, particularly rescuing Raphael Dinelli during the Vendee Globe. Having said that, kiting at thirty knots on the Greenland Icecap at 9,000ft was pretty special as well.

Talking about the spice of life brings the North Pole to mind as it is a real Phileas Fogg moment in time and space. The nearest land is about a mile down, you can be on ice as little as three inches thick which is moving. We drifted seven miles one night and the top of the world represents a huge clock. The sun never goes down as it circles the world so at any moment in the day you can look at it and see midday in another time zone.

The freak storm that saw the end of Team Philips was pretty exciting, I don’t think many people are aware of the severity of what she had to take us through. We had no sails up and thirty tons of drag out the back of the boat and yet we were still doing speeds of up to thirty two knots. It was dark, the waves were huge and it was a case of steer for your life. To look down the face of a wave that is three times the length of your 120ft craft and start to accelerate into it is a frightening and at the same time exhilarating moment.

My time in the Royal Marines had many exciting moments but the funny thing is that beginnings are often as exciting as experiences. All that hard work, visualization and preparation comes to a head and the sense of anticipation can be really quite intoxicating. I’ll never forget the start of my first single handed transatlantic in Cornish Meadow, a 26ft Firebird catamaran. Many thought we would never make it and although I was well aware of the risks I really believed in the boat and was about to put my ‘neck on the block’ to find out. Talk’s cheap – twenty one days later we had our answer.

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Do you regret what happened to Team Phillips?

I think ‘regret’ is not the word I would use as I am too pragmatic. I will always be proud of that project and will always be grateful to her for saving our lives in some of the worst conditions I have ever seen.

To me the definition of an adventure is that it has an unknown outcome, we have our aspirations but you never know until you live it and sadly it doesn’t always work out.

There’s a choice; you can sit at home in a cotton wool bag and hold court on events with no real understanding of them or you can shoulder the risks and hardship and live it. Team Philips was the most amazing journey and although it didn’t work out the way we wanted, I’ll never regret the journey and the thousands of big-hearted people who joined us.

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What went wrong with the boat?

It’s in the past now and I have had my fill of armchair experts – some hugely qualified I might add. Perhaps one day I will write a book on the whole thing for there is a lot that needs to be said but not until it will be treated objectively.

When people listen to you, but don’t want to hear you, its time to move on. I’ll know when the time is right.

The question that ought to be asked is what went right with the boat. She was absolutely amazing and in time will be seen as well ahead of her time.

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Would you ever consider building her again?

It’s complicated; I never repeat anything, but I have to say Team Philips is the only project I have completed with a sense of unfinished business. We’ve done the prototype and it was really quite amazing so let’s build another. On the other hand, if I had the same budget and another five years there are a whole rake of interesting projects on my shelf that ought be tackled.

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Did you always have a drive for adventure as a child?

My life has been an adventure from birth so it’s just a normal state for me. My father worked abroad as an agricultural consultant in some pretty wild places and my Mum taught us through correspondence courses. As a four year old I can remember my Dad lighting car tires on the beach in Aden to help the monthly Dakota land with our supplies. The bedroom was riddled with bullet holes and Dad went to work in a mine proof Jeep.

They say the greatest lottery of life is your parents and I definitely won the jackpot on that front. We were always encouraged to try new things and as they were always doing the same it just rubbed off.

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What does your wife think of you being away so often?

Tracey goes ‘yippee’ runs up the flag and encourages me to get a slow boat.
Joking aside, we are very protective of our family time and I get more time at home than people realize. Our rule of thumb is one big project every four years and we keep a family time bank so if we lose out on the one hand we look to claw it back on the other. For instance we dug into the account one Christmas and spent five weeks in New Zealand. It’s never easy but we work at it and of course Tracey is an amazing person who I have known since I was fourteen.

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Is there any adventure you would still like to do?

The list is eternal.


What does it feel like to stand on top of the World?

It’s a very emotional moment as it is such a unique place in the sense that the world and all that it is lies at your feet and it really hits home how small and special it is. Added to that is the elation at making it, for you never have it handed on a plate and one of the joys that Alan Chambers and I have in leading these groups is the sense of achievement they have on fulfilling a goal that they have been working towards for many months.

It’s a place where friends are made for life and often a catalyst for good. Many people return with resolutions which unlike the New Year are kept. On top of that there is always the satisfaction of doing something for others. The first group of eight we took up this year raised over a million pounds for charity.

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How do you cope with the extreme cold?

Knowledge, discipline, Gore-Tex, Musto and BASK equipment - which is the best - and a buddy buddy system. Frost nip can creep up without the sufferer knowing, and unless it is pointed out and dealt with it can turn nasty. Last year we saw an American with parts of his nose and thumb having turned a ghastly black due to cold – I hope he doesn’t lose them.

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Do you ever get scared?

Of course there are moments when one is scared but they are moments. We have a saying that knowledge dispels fear. The more you train and prepare the less daunting a task will seem and the better able one is able to handle the dodgy bits. When things get really close to the wire you have to put your emotions in a box and apply logic and experience. Panic kills.

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How can we monitor your progress during your adventures?

The website is the key and is where we post blog updates, pictures and video.  You can also click on the tracker in the right hand menu to see where we are and follow the adventure with us.

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How can we send messages of support to the team?

The best thing is to use the website, just click on ‘contact the team’ and we will respond if we can.


What are your plans for the future?

To continue living a happy and fulfilled life that is full of variety and fun from hobbies to business and sport.

On the project front I have loads of ideas but will hold off making a commitment.

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Do your recent sailing adventures signal a return to round-the-world yacht racing?

Not consciously, but you never know, life’s a funny old thing.

Journey to Date
  • Kayak Adventures 2012
  • The Route du Rhum 2010
  • Spirit of Mystery 2008-9
  • North Pole 2006-9
  • Fastnet 2007
  • RB&I 2006
  • SeaCart 30
  • Playing for Success
  • Team Philips 2000
  • Vendee Globe 1996/7
  • British Steel Challenge 1992
  • Cornish Meadow 1988
  • Three Peaks Race 1984