Moving Parts is an INEOS TEAM UK series looking at the invaluable work of different members from across the team. This time we are looking at Crane Manager Graham Goff.
Graham ‘Grazy’ Goff has a dual role at INEOS TEAM UK. Off the water, he is the crane manager, responsible for all crane operations including lifting Britannia in and out of the water. On the water, he is a support boat driver, responsible for Chase 4, the team’s equivalent to a Formula 1 Pit Wall. It is a combination perfectly suited to Graham, who has spent the majority of his life close to the water and close to boats.
Born in Bognor Regis, Graham learnt to sail at his local yacht club from a young age. He was the first one in his family to start sailing, but he immediately felt that he had a passion for boats.
“I was 10 years old when I first got into sailing. No one in my family sailed but it quickly became a passion to me. Initially I just had a passion for boats, but that quickly developed into a passion for racing too”.
That passion drove Graham to consider a career in the marine industry. His first job in what would become a lifelong career in the industry was working in the drawing office of a boatbuilding company, drawing yachts. Following that Graham decided to train as a sailmaker.
“After my first job I went on to build a couple of race yachts. I quickly worked out, however, that sail making is a lot cleaner than boat building, so I went into sail making! I spent a few years sail making and then when out on my own and found my own sail making business, Technique Sails, specialising in multihull sails”.
Graham ran Technique Sails for 15 years. During that period his passion for racing came to life too, as Graham won two Multihull National Championships and took line honours three times in the Round the Island Race. He was also part of the crew on Pete Goss’ ill-fated Team Phillips catamaran, for which he designed and built the sails.
It was after leaving Technique Sails that Graham entered the America’s Cup world, joining the organisers for the 34th America’s Cup as Wing and Platform Logistics Manager. Soon after the 34th America’s Cup, however, a new opportunity arrived.
“Being part of the America’s Cup organising team is great but if you are like me and are competitive and have a passion for racing you are not so interested in organising, you want to be part of the winning. I really wanted to join a team.
“Then, after AC34, I heard Ben was starting a new British syndicate to challenge for the Cup. I got an invite to speak to Ben and the team and, initially, just look at what their requirements might be regarding cranes and what the costs would be for the team relative to hiring a crane or buying one. So, we did a study and we ended up buying a crane and I ended up joining the team permanently!”
The main responsibility of that crane is to lift Britannia in and out of the water each time the team goes out sailing. The main responsibility for Graham, as Crane Manager, is to ensure that process goes as smoothly and as safely as possible. When you are lifting something as valuable as an AC75, that responsibility can come with a lot of pressure.
“I don’t see it as pressure, I enjoy it. When you are lifting Britannia you are very much focussed on what you are doing. I’m not sitting there thinking about the value of the boat. Instead I’m just focussed on getting the job done to the best of my ability. I guess like a lot of people in this team, you rise to the challenge. When lifting Britannia I am fully focussed on the job at hand and only thinking about things like whether the radius is right, how windy it is on that day, the wind direction, which way the boat will swing, and whether the team is all in the right place.
“Like a lot of jobs, the majority of hard work is done in the planning stage. Firstly, I’m fully qualified in all departments of crane operations. Within that a lot of my role includes the planning element, looking at different elements such as whether the pier is going to take the weight of the crane, how much radius we actually need to launch the boat, the lifting gear we need, as well as ensuring the team are fully briefed and all aware of what they need to be doing. It is, after all, a team operation.
“Whilst you are not thinking of the value of the boat, the one responsibility that does weigh down on you, alongside the safety of everyone involved of course, is the safety of the boat. As they say, time is the most valuable resource in the America’s Cup, and the one thing you don’t want to be responsible for is enforcing downtime on the team because something has gone wrong and you have damaged the boat. Fortunately for us to date things have gone pretty well, and we’ve never lost a day’s sailing through any crane operations!”.
Once the AC75 is safely on the water and the team go out sailing, however, Graham’s role changes. Every time Britannia goes out sailing, several chase boats follow her every move with numerous support team members from the safety team through to those that manage the communication systems onboard. Graham’s role is to drive one of these chase boats, ‘Chase 4’.
“Chase 4 is our equivalent to a Formula 1 pit wall. It’s where we have our team engineers out on the water. From onboard the chase boat they are in constant touch with the team onboard Britannia and able to closely analyse all the data coming off of the boat. As the driver my job is to position the chase boat wherever the engineers may need it to be, so we can, for example, take a close look at the sails or the foils and see how things are working.”
“Ultimately, I enjoy controlling things. Outside of my work I love my flying too. This job keeps me busy but when I get the chance to go out flying, I love it. I fly a little two-seat C42 high wing monoplane.”
Whether it be driving a crane, a chase boat or flying a plane, it is clear that Graham feels right at home being in control and behind the wheel. To be out on the water when Britain wins the America’s Cup for the first time ever, however, would no doubt be a highlight for the lifelong sailing fan.
“It would be such a feather in your cap to say that I was part of the team that won the America's Cup. I look around and I see, particularly this iteration, that we look in a really good shape. It's all to play for. We have a great skipper and team, and it’s down to us to give the sailors a good enough boat. To be able to say I was there when we won the Cup and hopefully be on the water when we are able to do it would be fantastic.”