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Vendee Globe - Brutal 48 hours for Golding, Gamesa

by Sara Blackwell / Emily Caroe on 6 Dec 2012
Mike Golding on board Gamesa, 2012 Vendee Globe Mike Golding Yacht Racing © http://www.mikegolding.com
In the Vendee Globe, after a brutal 48 hours of tough, unstable conditions, big, untidy seas and winds which varied massively in strength, Mike Golding is consolidating this morning in slightly lighter winds making 13-14kts as he tries all he can to stay in touch with the leading group of five.

His primary objective has been to stay in the same weather system as the leaders who are about 400 miles to the west of the Crozet ice gate, while Golding is now some 530 miles behind the leading boat, Banque Populaire and 360 miles behind Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss. But a high pressure ridge has started to catch Golding and his immediate rivals, seventh placed Jean Le Cam and eighth Dominique Wavre and so their speeds have dropped and there is a real risk that they will continue to lose miles to the leading group. A high pressure is building ahead of them but the evolution is not clear how much that will affect them.

Update with Mike Golding 5 December 2012 16:00 GMT (Emily Caroe):

How have the last 24-48 hours been?

It's been not so much frustrating, but quite worrying at times. Last night was a lot better, a big improvement. It's just a lot of stress on the boat, a lot of stress on me and the guys around me, there were some quite exceptional waves there in amongst that lot. You have to remember that this is the area of the World where the largest waves ever have been recorded, so it is not surprising you see the odd biggie!

Last night was quite a lot better, the breeze calmed down and then it was just a question of knowing when to break out the reefs and change sail, but to be honest, I did that fairly quickly and I think I was just ready to keep the boat going. We have got the pressure on at times to try to do something to mitigate the worst effects of the high pressure that is coming, to see if we can't do something to stop the rot which seems to be happening over the last week with the leaders, in a sense, who are moving away from us.

You did manage to get some sleep and a hot meal?

I have eaten and rested. It was pretty hard to rest last night because conditions were changing, I was trying to push more south and I would like to push further south, but because we are in the influence of this high the wind is not stable, as we steer generally by the wind, it is very difficult when the pilot is following the wind and the wind is shifting 40 degrees. You can't really follow a strategy if you are just zigzagging your way through the ocean, so it does mean that you have to monitor it, retrim the sails, rather than just following the wind wherever it goes.

One or two small problems with the boat?

'The leak in the transom comes from one of the interceptor fittings and it is really hard to fix. You could probably fix it in five minutes in the dock, but because you are sailing all the time it is quite hard to fix. The furler reel came adrift and did some damage to the bow, took a few chunks out of it, but I don't think it is anything serious. I think I have got away pretty lightly in fact. There is nothing there causing me any big problems, but it is really indicative if the fact that we have had absolutely no problems at all and now suddenly we have got three or four little ones and I think that is indicative of the tough conditions. The boat is getting an absolute pounding. If there is a problem with the boat, these conditions were going to find it.

Summary of the evolution of the weather over the next 24-46 hours as you move towards the next gate?

The high is basically extending out a ridge. What always happen is that the high in the south atlantic moves to the east and squeezes underneath South Africa, underneath the Cape of Good Hope and then pops out again before the Indian Ocean and continues to move east towards south of Australia.

So what we are seeing now is that we are in that region and we are sailing in that region and the high from the Atlantic is extending out a ridge, squeezing through underneath South Africa and will pop out and settle in the East Indian Ocean.

The problem we have got is that we are trying to escape the worst effects of it by pushing south and the gate is where it is likely to be where the high will form and maybe stop its track eastwards. The problem for us is we first of all have to avoid the extending ridge but also when we approach the gate, the gate might be a windless zone. Now, at one point it looked like the leaders were going to get caught by this too which presented an opportunity for a compression, a good compression of the fleet, but yesterday it started to look different and in fact it looks like the leaders will continue on relentlessly. Today it is kind of less clear and there is still a possibility that the leaders will have trouble getting away from the gate. They may get to the gate quickly, but they may have trouble sailing away from the gate. Unless they are prepared also to head very deeply south, way outside of the race circle. And to be honest they haven't shown any inclination to do that in their strategy so far. So it is going to be an interesting 24-48 hours of the race to see how it all pans Vendee Globe Mike Golding website

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