Golding grateful for dry land

Ed Gorman reports as a philosophical Mike Golding gets to Les Sables in seventh place

Wednesday February 28th 2001, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
After completing a circumnavigation of the globe that will go down as one of the hardest in terms of the pure psychological challenge it presented, Mike Golding brought Team Group 4 into Les Sables d'Olonne today to claim seventh place in the Vendee Globe.

When you consider that he re-started the race eight days and four hours late, after Team Group 4 dismasted on the first night, this is no mean achievement. Golding had originally re-started with the aim of setting a new outright record for the 24,000-mile course, having accepted that winning was out of the question.

However, problems with the genoa fitting at the top of the rig which delayed him in the Southern Ocean and then a relatively slow passage through the Doldrums and in the north Atlantic, put paid to those hopes. Yet the former BT Global Challenge winner still managed to post the fourth fastest time overall of 102 days and 12 hours, which beats fourth-placed Marc Thiercelin's time by seven hours and 15 minutes.

Golding crossed the line at 07.33 GMT on a beautiful morning and was met by hundreds of people, many of whom had travelled to Les Sables from Britain to welcome him home. Among them was his fiance Andrea Bacon, Jorgen Philip Sorenson, the chairman of Group 4, who has taken a keen personal interest in all Golding's racing campaigns and Ellen MacArthur who spent several minutes chatting with him.

There were also hundreds of locals who came out to welcome the man they had seen in a distraught state the day after the race began and who they then helped with their encouragement and support, to rejoin the race. At his post-race press conference, at which many of the general public were present, Golding earned himself an instant standing ovation when he said the best part of his Vendee had been the support he received from the people of Les Sables before he re-started.

"I'm glad it's over - it's been a long, hard and quite difficult race from the outset for obvious reasons," he said later. "But, you know, to get the fourth fastest time is not that bad when one has to look at it in the context of what it was. It was never going to be a top performance, but there you go."

Golding said he never fully overcame the motivational crisis which began with the dismasting and which returned whenever things were not going his way. Remember, in addition to the genoa problem, he also battled a faulty water-maker and sailed without masthead instruments for almost all of the way round. He also ran very low on fuel, food and cigarettes. "There were many times I felt like giving up. I think the main motivation originally was to win it. Once that had gone it was a fairly difficult realignment to get your head round," he said.

Golding revealed that his mast ascent in the lee of Kerguelen Islands in the Southern Ocean turned into one of the most frightening episodes in his long single-handed career. He had to go up because the fitting holding the genoa to the top of the mast had broken and the sail had slipped some way down the furler. The only way to get the sail fully back up again was to climb the rig with the huge sail unfurled while Team Group 4 sat in the lee of the islands.

The danger was that she would start sailing - she was not anchored - while Golding was up the rig. This duly happened and, within minutes, Golding was being flung around up to 15 feet away from the mast. When he eventually got down, he was in a terrible state and the experience left scars which haunted him on seven or eight subsequent climbs of Team Group 4's 87ft rig. "I frightened myself quite severely going up the rig," said Golding who has never been known to overstate his case. "I lost a lot of confidence going up the rig," he added.

The original plan for Golding was to win the Vendee or get as close to that as would do him justice and then move on into the 60ft multihull circuit or possibly a Volvo campaign. But Golding is currently unsure whether he can walk away from single-handing quite yet and will consider his options in the coming weeks. He described his boat, which has brought him nothing but ill-luck as "bloody-minded" and acknowledged that he has hardly had the best of times in his Open 60. "Unfortunately I seem to be haunted by this bad luck streak," he said before heading off for a well-earned shower.
Go to page 2 for quotes from Mike Golding's press conference.

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