Golding feared close to dismasting again in the Vendee Globe

photo Mark Lloyd
photo Mark Lloyd

photo Mark Lloyd
photo Mark Lloyd

Ecover 3 Copyright Mark Lloyd
Ecover 3 Copyright Mark Lloyd

NEWS FLASH from the south.

Life can change so quickly in the south, bringing back memories of a dismasting while in the lead in the 2008 Vendee Globe. In the early hours of Sunday morning while furling the Code 0 (the photo left illustrates the size of the Code 0 with the boat in Ecover livery), a squall took the wind from 18 to 35 kts and at the same time the furling line failed under the load. This left no means of furling the 220 sqm sail and in a quick thinking action Mike dumped the keel to the centreline allowing the boat to fall on its side releiving the load on the rig and sail. This was the only the begining of what would have been hours of hard and difficult work wrestling this crucial sail, unfurled down and into the boat before getting Gamesa on her feet and sailing again. Mike picks up the story:

"There was certainly a point where I thought, 'Here we go again, please, not another Christmas in Perth. But I am reasonably sorted now, I am not going to go mad. I just have to consolidate with the boat a bit and accept that I won't have my best day. Otherwise there is the propensity to get right into that downwards spiral and that’s when bad things start to happen.

"I’m back on course now. The Code Zero is a bit of a mess with all the sheets inside it. I'm in repair mode now and have to sit and stitch the cover back on the furler line. I have not had a chance to really inspect the line, but I am certainly hoping the damage is only to the cover and none of the core is gone. That would make life difficult.

"I am a bit out of sequence now [behind in his sail change pattern to match the wind forecast] so I need to get to the Solent and two reefs and just not go mad. The main thing is I am now down to the line of Jean Le Cam, so I need to consolidate now. When all this was going on I had the flashback to four years ago. It is so dangerous now because you have 20 knots and are lulled into a false sense of security and then suddenly there is a big 35 knot gust."

Only the previous day a frustrated but confident Mike Golding gave one of his longest interviews to Vendee Globe TV where he spoke of the race so far, sailing with Le Cam and his hopes to be on the podium.

VGTV: "How are you feeling Mike?"

Mike Golding: "I’m frustrated, I think Jean (Le Cam) and I must have done something wrong in a former life to end up in this hole. We’re just sat here and we can’t break through into the tropical depression which I think both of us were anticipating doing. The result is we’re just kind of lolloping here behind the trough unable to break through it but it’s blocking our way basically, it’s going slower than we are able to go but we just keep butting up against it and we’re stuck here until the next system actually catches up with us which hopefully will happen later on today."

VGTV: "Mike, we’ve some fantastic speeds at the front of the fleet, it must be doubly frustrating because you know exactly what it’s like to charge across the Indian Ocean and indeed the Pacific to come, where we may see your own record challenged by Francois?

MG: "It is frustrating, but to be honest if we were going I think those boats, the new boats, do seem to have a bit of an edge in these conditions and while they say you don’t need the fastest boat to win the Vendee in the south here it certainly helps to pull a lead out. But it’s one thing having a lead but er they have actually made a real big jump here and I don’t think there’s anything anyone could have done about it, you just have to watch how quickly Hugo Boss and Virbac have fallen back from the leaders, you know, there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s er quite frustrating."

VGTV: "What are your immediate aims over the next 24-48 , get out of this trough and get ahead of Jean?"

MG: "That’s the goal and whereas Jean got me all in one, I think it’s going to have to be death by a thousand cuts for Jean (laughs), because I’m just doing it, nibbling away at it. I think with weather forecast as it is, that’s the way it’s going to be, but I mean to be honest it is great having Jean close by and it was frustrating to lose some miles to him, but the nice thing about having a boat close by is that it kind of keeps you honest and makes sure that you’re pushing and working the boat properly and having someone of the calibre of Jean gives you extra reassurance that you’re not doing too much wrong it’s just the conditions around you.

VGTV: "You’re nearly halfway round I guess, how are you doing physically, mentally, how are feeling generally?

MG: "Good, I have a few aches and pains but generally I’m in good shape, the boat’s in great shape. The boat has never been so sorted as she is now. She feels really good in all the different conditions but (laughing) we’re still waiting for those big downwind conditions that we’re kind of promised on the Vendée, but for sure they’ll come and at that point I’m pretty sure the boat’s going to go well. We’ll have an interesting race here in amongst our own fleet and I’ve still got my eye on Hugo Boss I’d still like to get up there. So, while it looks very disappointing in terms of the distance to finish, there is still a realistic possibility of a podium, you know, there’s still some attrition that could happen in the race and still changes that could occur. I mean in 2004 I was five or six hundred miles behind at this point and I caught all of that and took the lead just after Cape Horn. So, it is absolutely possible to make a catch but I’m afraid Francois and Armel have shown us a clean set of heels here (laughs)."

VGTV:  We have seen Jean-Pierre Dick has lost almost 200 miles in the day, Dominique Wavre lost almost 200 in the last 24 hours, it can change very quickly and it look like it’s going to change today for you, it looks like there’s going to be stronger winds, what kind of gains do you think you can make back Mike?

MG: "Well, everything you lose potentially you can gain, because all you have to do is put the boot on the other foot and those guys fall into a bit of a hole and we come rattling in on them. I mean you only have to look at Acciona, who’s sailing a very nice race behind us, and is snapping at the heels of Dominque Wavre, he’s gained enormously over a very short period of time just by virtue of the fact that we’ve all been stuck, we’ve all been stuck in these lighter more complex conditions and we haven’t had the clean flow that we should have. So, it is possible, but one has to say that the quality and calibre of the front of this fleet is execptional and the boats are being extremely well sailed and I’ve particularly been impressed with Alex, I think Alex has done a fantastic job and I just hope his various problems on board don’t cause him a longer term problem but if I can’t be at the front of the fleet then I’d like Alex to be at the front of the fleet obviously."

VGTV: "That’s a lovely bit of comradeship Mike. I just wondered also how much you draw some of those experiences we were talking about, obviously you draw on the fact that you’ve got Jean with you, but your record of 16 days across the Pacific in 2004, do think about things like that at this point?"

MG: Yes, I mean that was a very different race, because we weren’t so constrained by the gates, the gates are really clogging up the system, but I’m not saying the gates are wrong, I’m just saying the gates change profile of the race and maybe change the way you have to approach it. In 2004 I never set a code sail, I had so much wind that I never needed a code sail, I had a blast reacher and I was either blast reaching or staysailing so nothing ever flew off the bowsprit and I’ve been flying all sorts of sails off the bowsprit here in the Southern Ocean this time round, so it’s a very, very different profile this race and you can’t really compare the two and that’s one of the reasons why you come back and do the event again because it never throws up the same set of problems or the same challenges as before, it’s a very different kind of race it’s presenting me with very different kinds of problems.

“I’ve had as little as five knots in the last hour (Saturday morning) so it’s very soft. The last few days, even when we have had wind because we’re sailing into this trough where there’s wind, we’ve had conditions where we’ve had 25 knots of wind but an absolutely glassy smooth sea, so it’s slightly bizarre sailing, it is slightly strange and I know Jean has commented on how this situation is very hard to explain this situation why we’re so stuck because as soon as we get any speed on we just sail ourselves into the trough, we get no wind, we stop and then system moves forward again the wind comes back and away we go again. It’s literally and figuratively banging your head against a brick wall."

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