Gamesa Sailing Team skipper Mike Golding tells of the preparations being made for the upcoming Transat Jacques Vabre and the dedication of Gamsea by HRH The Princess Royal.
Sometimes I wonder whether there is more stress attached to getting a boat build or refit project to completion than there is in the middle of a big ocean race! Calms, Trade Winds or storms, the strain is always with you.
Just as you make strategic decisions out there on the race course which directly affect your finish, so too on land as you plan and execute a new project there are dozens of choices and decisions you make which will impact on how we finish on the race course.
Long hours write a new story: So it has been a very intense three months with some very long days for everyone. The final two weeks before Gamesa came out of the Green Marine yard in Hythe were round the clock. With so many opportunities to improve still further on what we have done in the past, it is especially exciting to have this feeling: like a completely fresh start.
We have a new sponsor, a new brand to promote and the boat has a very different technical set up which should improve speed and reliability. And each decision has been informed by the huge databank of knowledge and experience that we have all accumulated over the last 15 or so years.
The newly modified and freshly minted Gamesa was revealed at Green Marine just two weeks ago. Even though I have seen three of my IMOCA Open 60s launched and many more re-launched when big re-fits are completed, it is still an exciting and emotional time when the boat goes into the water for the first time.
At Green Marine there were just centimetres of lateral clearance when the boat came out the shed, so we were especially keen not to damage the paintwork!
Gamesa has a brand new rig which has been designed and built by Future Fibres in Spain. We have a long relationship with the company and with the very experienced and talented David Barnaby who is there.
We have finally moved away from the wing rig type of configuration. On paper the reliability of the classic rig is better. We are utilising a continuously wound carbon rigging system which means this rig does not have as many terminations as a conventional classic rig. And the rig is lighter. Because of the way the IMOCA rule is configured now, boats which are choosing to use a wing rig are choosing to take a bigger risk, because their masts have to be built with a lower factor of safety. We feel that we will have a rig with a higher factor of safety with the goal of finishing races.
Enter the dragon: As you will see the boat is substantially modified. We have simplified the cockpit to reduce weight, making it more dedicated towards solo sailing, and we have this new coach roof style and I have abandoned steering wheels and gone for twin tillers. That’s a big change for me. I always preferred looking forwards and not sailing twisted for hours. But the new coach roof offers much, much more protection and the tillers mean I can steer with the canopy covering me with forward vision through the ‘eye’ window. The coach roof shape is unique and has already been compared to a komodo dragon, or a frog. I prefer to align myself with the ferocity of a komodo dragon!
The mainsheet track is moved forward so the whole working cockpit is more compact and more protected. We have done away with the aft pedestal grinder, dieting from seven winches to three and from two pedestals to one. That’s a very significant weight saving but it will be pretty tight for Bruno Dubois (my co-skipper on the forthcoming Transat Jacques Vabre) and I working twos up!
All of this working area looks exactly as we would have designed it if we had started from scratch with a design more dedicated to solo sailing.
It really is the start of a new story with chapters to complete as we go and Tuesday 20 September marked a very special day.
A royal affair: When HRH The Princess Royal made her dedication of the freshly modified and updated Gamesa at the PSP Southampton International Boat Show, it was the perfect recognition that we were ready to move directly on to the next stage: on the water preparation for the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed transatlantic race.
It might have taken two goes to get the bottle of Champagne Mumm cracked over her bow, but that provided a bit of light relief! Now we have time to be on the water for key testing, tuning and training, knowing we need to be in Le Havre, men and machine fighting fit, for 21 October, ready to count down to the race start on 30 October. All in all I feel this is such an exciting phase of my ocean racing career.