As Mike Golding looks forward to completing his first full week of his fourth Vendée Globe solo round the world race tomorrow, Saturday 17th November, the British skipper has been facing a frustrating time dealing with a wide band of high pressure which is making for light and unsettled breezes as he tries to improve his eighth place position today [Friday].
Mike Golding onboard his IMOCA Open60 yacht Gameas at the start of solo non stop around the world yacht race - The Vendee Globe 2012.
After a steady passage across the Bay of Biscay, effectively a straight drag race on one tack directly to the corner at Cape Finisterre, Golding enjoyed the fast sailing downwind on the Portuguese coast before making big gains as the leading pack made strategic decisions how to cross a wide ridge of light winds which stood between them and the strong, favourable breezes of a low pressure system.
Golding kept to the east on Gamesa and was able to hold on to a corridor of stronger wind for longer than his rivals which allowed him to rise to fourth place on the rankings. But Mike has recently been paying the price for that choice as he presently finds his route barred by more light winds.
'Is it only six days, but it feels like a lot longer…' quipped Golding this morning, 'To be fair it has been pretty busy with a lot going on all the time, a lot of transitions and we have never really been settled for very long and so it has been pretty tiring, all in all.
'But it is all going OK, we have been through some tough weather and have no big problems and I am pleased about that. I am now on the less favoured side of the course, I’d like to be to the west and so that is a little bit frustrating. And in general I was a little bit frustrated to be playing catch up so early in the race; I am a little bit out on a limb on this side. I’d prefer to be with the group. But, overall, I am happy with things.'
Already four boats of the 20 starters have had to drop out of the race. Marc Guillemot (Safran) lost his keel within the first six hours of the race, Groupe Bel and Bureau Vallée both had incidents with fishing boats which resulted in damage and on Thursday evening Golding’s compatriot and the only female skipper in the fleet, Sam Davies, had her mast break and fall over the side whilst in 35 knots of wind and big seas.
Speaking about the attrition, Golding commented, 'I am surprised which boats they are. They are some of the most experienced and best skippers in the race and they have had accidents or technical problems. It is not good news. It is very bad for them and for all the teams and sponsors involved, to have put in so much work for so long and to drop out so early, it is really hard. It sounds a bit harsh to say perhaps, but this is the very nature of the Vendée Globe. This is what this race is like.
'I am very sorry for Sam in particular. It is terrible for her and her team and for the race.'
Mike Golding’s training programme through the spring and summer months was curtailed after his mast fell down in May, and the skipper admits it has been tough getting into the race rhythm.
'The truth is that nothing really prepares you for the Vendée Globe. You go from talking about it to doing it.'
But the British skipper is now well into his race routine, heading towards the warmer weather between the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands which are some 500 miles down the race track. It is a stage that Golding knows well from his five solo round the world races.
His previous Vendée Globe starts helped in many respects during start day, not least in being able to really relax and savour the unique atmosphere in the half mile channel which makes the exit from Les Sables d’Olonne unique.
'This time I was able to relax and really take it in. It is such an emotional day and I was able to enjoy it this time. In fact it does not stay with you long because you are immediately into race mode, but it is such a reminder of the passion that exists for the race and that helps when you are out here.'
The weather situation ahead for Mike is not looking very promising with a high pressure ridge enlarging from the African coast out to the west producing very variable easterly winds which will be shifty and difficult. This upcoming stage should be enjoyable, trade winds sailing, the low pressure to the north of the fleet has temporarily destroyed the NE’ly tradewinds.
'In fact it is looking pretty rubbish down to the Doldrums. There is just no circulation at the moment and so the tradewinds are not established just now.'
Golding’s sixth solo circumnavigation is expected to take up to 90 days with the fleet due back in to Les Sables d’Olonne, France, in early February 2013.
Mike Golding website
Vendee Globe website