Five days to go before the start of the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe and Britain’s Mike Golding OBE is ready for the beginning of his fourth entry in the brutal race which is acknowledged as the pinnacle of solo ocean racing. The boat is packed, the final job list is completed and the 150kg of food for the 25,000 mile race around the planet is on-board.
The Gamesa IMOCA Open 60 skippered by Mike Golding, shown here training offshore as he prepares for the Vendee Globe.
There is little more that Golding can do now except wait for Saturday morning 0946hrs (local time) when his IMOCA 60 Gamesa, will leave the dock in Les Sables d'Olonne, in the Vendée region of France, and head to the start line of what many say is the toughest race known to man.
The French love the Vendée Globe. The queue to gain access to the pontoons, where the 20 IMOCA 60s are moored, starts to build from eight in the morning and by 10 o'clock, when the pontoons are opened, thousands are ready to snake in an orderly queue past the multicoloured yachts. Each day as Mike heads down towards Gamesa he is inundated by requests for autographs, photographs or just to wish 'Michel Doré' Good Luck. Since the race village opened two weeks ago, over 575,000 people have visited the pontoons.
'It is an incredibly special feeling to be a player in this huge sporting event. The people of Les Sables always make the team and I so welcome and it gives everyone a huge buzz. Sailing is viewed in a different way in the UK, where it is deemed elitist and not a sport of the people, but us Vendée skippers: we aren’t like that! It is staggering the depth of knowledge here: from the school children to the parents, to the grandparents. They know the history of the race, they know the names of all the sailors and they spend hours queuing just to come past the boats and wish us well. It's an honour to be a part of it.'
On Saturday 10 November at 0946hrs Mike Golding will leave Les Sables d'Olonne, for what he has promised will be his final Vendée Globe. After a seventh in the 2000-2001 edition, a third in 2004-2005 and then a crushing dismasting when he was leading the race in the Southern Ocean in the 2008-2009 race, this - he says - is his final attempt at improving on his podium position.
Pictures of British skipper Mike Golding training onboard his IMOCA Open 60 GAMESA prior to the solo non stop around the world yacht race - The Vendee Globe 2012..Credit: Lloyd Images
'I'm not here to just enter the Vendée Globe, I'm here to try to win it. You have to have a very clear motivation otherwise why would you put yourself through the rigours of the Southern Ocean for a month, for example, or be apart from your family for so long?' queried Golding. Golding will be leaving behind his wife of 10 years, Andrea, and their nine year old son, Soren.
Golding has been consulting with weather experts, looking at the short and long-range forecasts for the next few weeks.
'The start of the race is always interesting with the Bay of Biscay in November which is usually a challenge of some description. Even now we are tracking the weather and as usual it is quite a complex picture, but it is not entirely clear this far out. Biscay can be pretty violent at any time of year and over my time I have seen just about everything. We have had easy starts where you just get lifted around Finisterre, which is the ideal situation for each team. But you can also be thrust out there into a lot of breeze, with a lot of manoeuvres. This part is the last major hazard in terms of shipping, but of course there are other challenges like fishing boats.
'When you arrive at Finisterre it can be quite busy and there is often an acceleration of the breeze so you can decide to go in and cut the corner, or try and push out to the west.
'Once you are past this area, the race course opens up for you. You are making your choice at that point, how far to push west which is largely determined by what is happening much further to the south or off the coast of Africa.'
To read more about Golding's view on the Vendée Globe course, click here.
In the final few days before the start, Golding is in a round of media interviews for the French national and international media and tomorrow, Wednesday 7 November, will receive a very special visit from 30 pupils who have travelled to Les Sables d'Olonne from Gosport, near Portsmouth in the UK, on a school exchange visit for Project Aware raising awareness of the environment and the oceans.
Vendee Globe website
Mike Golding website