by Gamesa Sailing Team on 11 Nov 2012
Mike Golding onboard his IMOCA Open60 yacht Gamesa as he passes through the canal prior to the start of solo non stop around the world yacht race – The Vendee Globe 2012. Les Sables d Olonne. France Mark Lloyd/ DDPI/Vendee Globe © http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/
From the early hours of this morning, the resort town of Les Sables d'Olonne on the Vendée coast, was flooded with visitors as they pitched their spot, choosing the best vantage point for the traditional parade of sail down the canal. Golding slipped Gamesa's mooring lines at exactly 0946h (local), the fourth boat off the dock, and was greeted with cheers from the crowds and passed British supporters waving huge union flags all the way down the canal.
Speaking just before he left the pontoon, Golding commented on the forthcoming weather, 'It looks like pretty good conditions, a little breezy now with threatening skies, but the forecast looks fairly reasonable for the first 24 hours. There is a little depression that comes to us mid-week and it looks quite fruity, which might be a bit of a sorting hat [note: ref to Harry Potter and Hogwart's] for the fleet, but otherwise we should have a good get away. There's a great atmosphere here and I'm now just focusing on the off and getting out of here.'
Golding was waved off the dock by a large band of British supporters, which included his wife, Andrea, and nine year old son, Soren. 'Does it get any easier to leave my family behind? No, it is such a long trip: you know you are away for three months. It is tough for the family as the whole build up is so intense. We have been here for three weeks, the visitors have been coming in in their hundreds of thousands, it's an amazing sight and it is hard not to get caught up in that emotion.
'The reality now is that all the teams have to turn their attention to the race course, which happens as soon as we are out of the channel. There is always a bit of nerves at the start line, we are very conscious that we are all sailing solo, in a restricted area and we don't want any catastrophies. But after a couple of hours, once I am over the start line, I will start to settle down, have my first drink, first meal and get my head round the mission ahead.'
In 12-18 knots of wind, the fleet of 19 boats [note: Bertrand de Broc, skipper of Votre Nom Autour Du Monde had to return to the empty pontoons in Les Sables following an incident with a spectator boat which resulted in a hole in his hull] crossed the start line, close reaching in the westerly breeze. Five skippers were over the line when the start gun went off (Energa, Groupe Bel, PRB, Banque Populaire and Macif) and all turned back to recross.