Fifth place on the Vendée Globe was Mike Golding’s for a fleeting moment on Tuesday when he eased Gamesa ahead of his long time arch-rival Jean Le Cam. But the British solo yachtsman ran out of breeze, hitting a buffer zone of high pressure which allowed Le Cam to snatch back fifth. On the latest poll at 1100 GMT today, Le Cam is 78 miles ahead of Golding, with 350 miles of lateral separation.
Le Cam has been continuing west towards the South American coast, with Golding sticking to his guns in the East where he hopes he will be able to work the rotation of the South Atlantic high pressure to better effect. By being further to the East, Golding hopes he should have a more E’ly, lifted breeze than to the west where it is more NE’ly, and he believes Le Cam might struggle by the coast.
Fifth place certainly remains the immediate target for Golding who has made up more than 430 miles on Le Cam since the East Pacific, gaining significantly at Cape Horn. On Wednesday morning Golding had gained some ten miles back on Le Cam and was still moving quicker than the French skipper who finished second on the Vendée Globe in 2005 when the British skipper was third.
Their rivalry and respect goes a long way back. Le Cam is racing his third Vendée Globe, having to retire from the last edition after he lost his keel and the boat capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn. He races a 2007-8 generation Farr, of the same design generation as Golding’s, which was previously Gitana 80 and Renault. Le Cam is a former crew and co-skipper of legendary French yachtsman Eric Tabarly and comes from La Forêt Fouesnant, the famous ‘valley of fools’ which is home to so many of the best French solo ocean racers. He has also won the Figaro Solitaire three times in the 1990s.
Golding and Le Cam have been sparring since the Cape Verde Islands on the descent of the Atlantic more than two months ago. Garrulous and good humoured, Le Cam has often spoken of his desire to beat his British rival. More recently, this week, both have speculated that the other is missing a sail or sails from their full inventory.
Golding today is 1,830 miles from the Equator and some 5,070 miles from the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne. All things being equal, he has around three weeks left of this Vendée Globe, which he has said will be his last.
But in terms of the weather patterns standing between Golding and the finish, he should progress nicely up towards the SE’ly trades in the next couple of days. The Doldrums can be problematic, but in general represent a compression on entry then extension on exit. Golding has been extending on the three boats behind, Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso being 225 miles behind and more or less on the same course as Golding’s Gamesa.
Into the North Atlantic the Trade Winds give way to the Azores High pressure and then it is all about catching the best of the winter W’lies to the finish. As has been proven many times, anything can happen.
Mike is about 660 miles South East of Rio today. By the latitude of Salvador de Bahia, in another 2.5 days or 1,100 miles, the return to France follows a well travelled transatlantic passage course and that will really start to feel like he is on the final stage of his race.
Meanwhile, after 67 days at sea, Golding is deeply fatigued. He is not just tired, but now having to use all his experience and self discipline to manage himself, making sure he does not deplete his very limited energy reserves. This is the stage where the constant cat napping catches up, but the end starts to feel like it is on the horizon.
HRH The Princess Royal met members of the Gamesa Sailing Team at the Tullet Prebon London Boat Show today and received a special message from Mike Golding OBE onboard Gamesa as he races in the South Atlantic in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe.
Golding and his team won the annual Artemis Challenge last August - a race round the UK's Isle of Wight - and received a cheque for charity for £6,000. Golding's sponsor, Gamesa, chose to donate the funds to Save the Children Fund, of which HRH The Princess Royal is President.
Unable to be at the Boat Show as he races on Day 67 of the Vendée Globe, Golding sent a video message presenting the cheque to HRH The Princess Royal, which he has carried onboard with him since the start of the race in Les Sables d'Olonne on 10 November 2012.