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Vendée Globe welcomes Gamesa after winter refit

by Mike Golding on 28 Apr 2012
Gamesa Team Photo - Vendée Globe 2012 Gamesa Sailing Team
Vendée Globe will be welcoming Gamesa after a winter refit, and the shore team is preparing her for a summer of offshore training and corporate sailing. Here, Mike gives us an update on what’s been going on these past few weeks and the plan in the buildup to the event.

Even after the technical success for the modified boat on the transat races last year it’s still been a busy winter for our shore team. Many onboard systems have been revised or renewed including a completely new main engine, so the team have had lots to keep them fully occupied.

We are now back into full sailing mode but this week are waiting for the weather (which is foul) to provide us with the opportunity to start sailing more seriously. Initially we’ll be doing a mix of day-sailing out of Southampton, then overnights, before heading out further offshore into the Atlantic. The sailing team on the boat will comprise of Gringo, Mikey and me. Mucky (our Composite Engineer) claims to be a ‘non-sailor’ but we leverage him out when we can and I have even seen him enjoying himself (even smiling at times) on board – something he would flatly deny!

These initial trials look inwardly at the boat’s various systems and also the boat’s basic performance and setup. Later we will get into seeing if we can improve on the numbers and then into the Vendée training proper where I will sail alone or perhaps with just one other onboard for safety.

Every sail from here on should have some solid purpose and goals attached to it. Each outing will have a clear set of objectives and a list of areas to go through, for example, drills of sail changes, manoeuvres, testing the various electrical/computer systems, the autopilots, the engine and charging systems. We are also constantly revising the boat’s performance; this data in turn helps improve the accuracy and reliability of the weather routing software. In essence we aim to leave no stone unturned in the hunt for optimal performance and reliability.

And so whilst the focus is on preparing Gamesa and me for performing well – we are also working on developing how to communicate and illustrate the story during the race. The boat is already equipped with a number of different satellite communications systems. Primarily, and for simple voice communications, we use the Iridium satellite system and have both fixed and portable handsets for emergency use. We can use this same system to go online or send small attachments but faster or bigger data movements require something more sophisticated.

Therefore for faster connections (needed to move large weather files or video or images) we currently have an Inmarsat Fleet 250 broadband. However the race organisers, in collaboration with Iridium, have recently provided a new Iridium Open Port system which should enable both the cheaper voice calls and a reasonably fast BB connection all in one package. Altogether these various systems are vital to provide the output we want to send news to those following us back home.

Supporting this we have an onboard media system with cameras dotted around the boat, which I can switch between, to provide interesting and varied views of the action on board in either recorded files which I can transmit, after editing, or live via a link to a TV station ashore.

This update is coming from Brazil, as I finish my tour of Gamesa plant facilities around the world. I’ve met the team in Salvador, Brazil, and then headed south to another facility in Sao Paolo. I know Salvador reasonably well having been there three or four times it used to be the end port for the Transat Jacques Vabre.

On my return from Brazil we will reach the countdown for the first of the ‘Race Ready’ deadlines we have set during the year to keep the team focused and practiced. The goal is that the boat must be in a full race ready state as if we were heading out into the Vendée Globe race. I then aim to head out with Gamesa to validate our systems and its general readiness.

In June we head to London for the RenewableUK Global Offshore Wind exhibition at ExCeL and then plan a trip north to Edinburgh in Scotland.

Please join us on the journey to the Vendée Globe by following us on our website. All the team is inspired by your support.'

Getting to know ….. Mike

Favourite thing/favourite place:
Chilling and snorkelling in the Maldives with Andrea and Soren, away from it all.

Favourite drink:
Red wine, Spanish or South American.

Favourite film, how many times have you seen it, and would you watch it again:
The Crimson Tide with Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. I’ve watched it at least five times and could and probably will watch it five more!

If I wasn’t a professional sailor I’d like to have been: a pilot, flying something interesting, not the ‘bus driving’.
Mike Golding website

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