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Top short-handed sailor on the merits of the Mixed Offshore Race

by Tip and Shaft 9 Nov 2018 14:21 PST 10 November 2018
Sam Goodchild and Mike Golding on Peter Harding's Class40 Phor-ty at the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race start © James Tomlinson

French sailing newsletter Tip and Shaft interviewed Mike Golding a veteran of the trans-oceanic and short-handed scene since 1992. He is notable for being a Brit in a French dominated area of the sport. The main point of interest centred around his views on the proposed Mixed Two-Person Offshore event, which was signed off last weekend at World Sailing's Annual General Meeting in Sarasota, Florida.

Under normal circumstances Mike Golding would have been in Saint Malo to enjoy the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe start. But the four times Vendée Globe starter who dedicated nearly 20 years of his life to the solo round the world race and the classic Transatlantics was in Sarasota at the World Sailing Annual Conference. He was invited there along with Dee Caffari to give their perspective on solo and short handed ocean racing at a key forum. Golding was not directly involved in the decision to bring an offshore event into the Olympic roster for 2024 but knowing French sailing like he does, and especially how the oceanic sport has a huge public following in France, this time he was happy to forego the pleasures of Saint Malo and undertake essential missionary work at just the right time.

What was your feeling about your first World Sailing conference?

The whole World Sailing set up seemed inordinately complicated with so many meetings and mixed agendas. I would say the offshore and oceanic forum was well attended with people like Dee there helped. I took some risks. I stood in a room full of Olympians and told them the Olympics was the equivalent of go karting compared to Formula 1. That was a bit of a gamble. But to some extent it was water off a duck’s back. Five seconds later they were arguing the toss about Olympic event minutiae. But in the context of offshore inclusion in the Olympics, it was part of a general impetus for a representation of offshore sailing in the Olympics.

So you are happy with the outcome?

Of course there are so many people complaining we have lost the Finn. But in the end that is one of ten medals. If it goes that far that there is offshore racing in the Olympics it is one of ten medals. And at least it has been given a try. And the other thing is because it will happen 24 hours a day, for the first time in Olympic history when all the sports stop at the end of the local daytime, then this will still be Olympic sport going on. You can have 24 hours of a day coverage going on outside of the arena. My point is it is going on 24/7 all around the world. Sailing in the Olympics is definitely niche and definitely not the most popular and is a terrible sport for TV. Now it can occupy a different space which no other event can. And I think that will increase the profile tremendously.

Do you have concerns?

There is mileage I am sure, provided World Sailing choose the right boat, the right equipment and the right set of rules. And there I am worried. They have a working party that is assembling ideas. But Stan Honey is the only person I can see with any sizeable offshore experience but he has no shorthanded experience. I am a little concerned about some things. They were talking about engines. I am saying you don’t want to take a diesel engine to the Olympics. For any sake ! We are in the 21st century ! Discussions like that irritate me. I can see that going wrong. Same with autopilots. You need autopilots or the race is not long enough. A 24 hour race is no good. It has to be long enough that you have to sleep. You have to rest. It has to be an offshore race, like a Figaro, nothing more nothing less.

What do you think of the equipment choice?

World Sailing should be commissioning a design. I think World Sailing should build and buy 20 of these designs which are not then commercially available. Those boats should be maintained as a unit for training and racing, a closed fleet for the Olympic and World Championship events only, so then Zimbabwe would have as much access to these boats as the UK. Or there could be 40 at different international hubs but the idea is you prevent the rich nations getting ahead. You are charged to use the boats and access is limited and equalised. I think there is a workable system. What you don’t do is have a Figaro 3, you don’t have foils, you don’t have complexities. You have a very simple boat. The boat they have chosen the L30 has a lift keel with a trim tab. You don’t want all that stuff. You don’t need it and complexity is divisive on the water. Teams who know how to use a trim tab would do better than teams that don’t. You want a real simple boat. I think it needs to look cool.

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