LIZZY FOREMAN: One last time

LIZZY FOREMAN: One last time

Wednesday February 6 2013 Author: Artemis Offshore Academy Location: United Kingdom

Artemis Offshore Academy Mini sailor Lizzy Foreman reports on Mike Golding's final Vendée Globe

 Without a doubt, Mike Golding is one of our most experienced and successful British solo offshore skippers. Like Alex Thomson, Golding did not come through ‘traditional’ solo offshore classes such as the Figaro and Mini 6.50, but instead worked his way onto the solo ocean racing scene through skippering and racing yachts over 60ft since the 1990s.

Mike Golding during his final battle with Jean Le Cam through the Azores © Mike Golding Yacht Racing

In 1992, Golding skippered a yacht into 2nd place in the British Steel Challenge; a round the world race conceived by Sir Chay Blyth, taking amateurs west about against the prevailing winds and currents. Leading a crew of recently converted sailors around the world undoubtedly taught Golding a lot about seamanship, management and mental toughness. Then, just two years later, Golding sailed the ‘wrong way’ around the world on the same 67ft yacht, but this time solo. Beating Chay Blyth’s original time by more than 125 days set the precedence for what was in store for Golding - a string of world records.

In 1996/1997 Golding again set off skippering an amateur crew to victory in the BT Global Challenge. It was then that Golding turned to the radical IMOCA 60 class, battling through numerous races with perhaps the most memorable being the Velux 5 Oceans, when Golding rescued fellow competitor Alex Thomson before then losing his own rig. Amazingly, in the 2000/2001 Vendée Globe, Golding’s first Vendée, he finished 7th, despite having restarted the race a week after everybody else, again due to a dismasting. It would seem that Golding is plagued with rig trouble as later in 2008, Golding was leading the midway stage of the Vendée Globe, before he again lost his mast in the Southern Ocean, then having to sail 1000nm to reach land under a jury rig!

Golding crosses the equator for the 6th time during the 2012/13 Vendée Globe © Mike Golding Yacht Racing

This wide breadth of experience saw Golding become Vice President of the IMOCA 60 class and President of the Technical Committee, allowing him to use his experience to influence decisions regarding the safety protocols of the extreme monohull fleet. In particular, the structure and longevity of the keels allowed in the IMOCA class have become of great interest to Golding, who is currently fighting a leak in his keel box just hours from the Vendée Globe finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne.

Using his honed seamanship skills, Golding has been able to slow Gamesa in gale force winds and big seas to help the bilge pumps remove the water from the inside of his boat. With a low-pressure system moving across the Bay of Biscay, Golding is ‘nervous about going to fast’ for fear of ‘water coming out everywhere’. These keel problems stem from losing the front fairing of the keel olive, due to either continual slamming into waves or hitting a UFO (unidentified floating object) in the past 48 hours. Losing the keel fairing is a potential race ending situation, but Golding’s sheer determination and skill (having spent five hours upside down in the keel box, he has found a solution), has meant that he is keeping the chance of the rubber gaiters which seal the hydraulic ram from bursting and so keeping his electronics and other systems save from a rush of salt water.

Golding enjoys a breakfast of scrambled eggs onboard his IMOCA 60 Gamesa © Mike Golding Yacht Racing

Golding is just 89nm behind Jean Le Cam (10:30GMT), whom he has battled closely with throughout the entire race around the world, the pair continuously switching between 5th and 6th position. Currently Golding is set to match his speed throughout the 2004 Vendee Globe, which he finished in 88 days. Dealing with his own problems onboard and so ‘not really concentrating’, it is very unlikely Golding will now sneak into 5th place, but with ‘all the boats at this stage of the race carrying little problems’, it is now all about nursing the boat home. Golding stated that the lead boats have had a ‘completely different race to our race’, managing to escape the worst of the weather quickly, while the rest of the fleet suffers. With a top speed of 19kts, Gabart’s average of 15 knots over the entire course is really quite amazing. As Golding now reaches into Les Sables d’Olonne on a fast wind angle, he is making a good, controlled speed.

This race is to be Golding’s last Vendée Globe, stating "even in a lifetime of sailing you can probably only do it four times", but this race has provided "some of the best sailing and the best racing", during Golding's 40 years competing in the sport. 

Mike Golding is a legendary and record-breaking British solo offshore sailor who has earned the respect and support of a nation.

Gamesa © Mike Golding Yacht Racing

I first met Mike back in 2011, when the squad took a trip to the London Boat Show. During the day we spoke to supporters of the Academy at the Musto clothing stand and listened to Mike talk about his plans for the 2012 Vendée Globe. An excellent speaker, he presented a flashy video of Gamesa blasting along and of his past achievements. Afterwards, he came to speak to us all and it was fantastic to speak to him and hear of his experiences. Throughout the year, I would go down to Ocean Village on my way home from Hamble or the Island to have a peeky look at Gamesa moored alongside the dock, just metres from where I lived and worked aboard a Clipper and Whitbread 60 the previous summer. She looked magnificent agaisnt the purplish dusky sky of Southampton.

Come June 2012, I met Mike again and this time on the pontoons at Venture Quays. It was Round the Island race day and I was to take a Figaro out for the day with corporate guests on board. Knowing that Mike would be sailing on the ohter figaro with Ollie Bond and Charles Darbyshire put the pressure on somewhat! At the end of the day, after obvisouly being beaten by Mike, we celebreated with a nice glass of Pol Roger Champagne.

The Artemis Offshore Academy 2012 Development Squad with the British Vendée Globe skippers - Lizzy is in front of Mike Golding © Lloyd Images

Later at Cowes week, we had a photoshoot at Academy HQ with the majority of British skippers who have competed in the Vendée Globe such Mike himself, Brian Thompson, Dee Caffari and Jonny Malborn. Sadly there wasn't much time to speak to them with the busy corporate week, but what an inspiration!

Lizzy Foreman




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