Golding dismastedThe disaster that struck Mike Golding less than eight hours into the 22,000 mile solo circumnavigation that is the Vendee Globe may not stop him competing. Although the rules insist on a non-stop trip, there is one port to which they can retire for repairs - the start and finish town of Les Sables d'Olonne.
Golding was just over forty miles away when the rig came crashing around his ears, initial unconfirmed reports are of the failure of an intermediate shroud in as little as eight knots of breeze. Golding was forced to cut the rig away to protect the boat, and then turned around under engine to return to Les Sables, where he must wait until midday for the tide to allow him into the port.
But Golding is reported to be anxious to restart, and he could do it. Team Group 4 is the only boat in the fleet with a spare identical mast. That rig is sitting in Southampton, and his sponsor has already indicated that they will support all efforts to get him back in the race. It's possible he could leave Les Sables on Sunday - the rules state that the line remains open for ten days after the gun goes.
While no formal decision has yet been made, it's looking like Golding will go for it. But a three day headstart is a lot to give a fleet of this quality, and Golding also lost all his front-line sails with the rig. An enormous amount of development had gone into those sails, and although he has a complete set of back-ups, they won't be quite as good. But yacht racing is a funny game and although the first boat to pick up a Southern Ocean weather system has the best shot at winning, they have to negotiate the Doldrums and the South Atlantic high before they get there. It's never over till it's over.
Golding wasn't the only front runner with a problem. Roland Jourdain was in the leading pack off the start and is widely tipped as a probable podium finisher. He also returned to Les Sables early this morning with damage to a spinnaker halyard and his front teeth. Jourdain is reported to have slipped and broken an undisclosed number of his pearly whites - going to the dentist at 3 am this morning before restarting. Patrick de Radigues also returned in his Open 50 - a brand new boat - with pilot problems. And there are unconfirmed reports that former Mini Transat winner and another likely front runner, Thierry Dubois, has also returned.