Golding arrives back in Les Sables
They say bad luck runs in threes. The Finot-Conq designed Team Group 4 has certainly had its fair share. First it fell off its cradle during a severe squall in Charleston prior to the start of the Around Alone Race. Then Golding almost sank it when he ran it aground off the northern tip of New Zealand in January last year, and now its rig has failed just seven hours into the race it was built for.
It is fair to say that this calamity could hardly have afflicted a better-prepared boat. Golding is a perfectionist and is obsessive about preparation and getting things absolutely right. There is no doubt that Team Group 4 left the dock on Thursday among the better prepared of the 24 yachts, but it appears the Alucarbon rig was already mortally wounded at that stage and was just waiting for the moment it was going to wreck his race.
Speaking from onboard Team Group 4 while awaiting a rising tide to get the boat back alongside, Golding described another awful moment in his solo racing career. 'We were about six or seven hours into the race and I was sailing in about 16 knots of breeze, reaching, with full main and genoa. The boat was doing about 15 knots, it was a little bit bumpy but nothing dreadful. All of a sudden there was a loud crack and the rig fell over the side. Obviously everything happened very quickly at that point,' he added.
Golding managed to save the boom and one of the deck spreaders but the rest had to go before it inflicted serious damage to the hull. 'It was very difficult to ascertain exactly what happened,' Golding continued. 'But I then spent the best part of two-and-a-half hours trying to get the rig clear of the boat because the biggest problem was that the mast and sails were underneath the boat. It's all very heavy gear so it took about two or three hours to clear. During that process I managed to chase down some of the cables and it doesn't actually look like any of the cables failed, so it appears that the early diagnosis of what went wrong is a compression failure in the tubes.'
Golding is fortunate to have a spare mast at Ocean Village in Southampton, plus spare sails to replace the two that he lost. The plan now is to try and truck that rig, which measures 25.4 metres, to Les Sables using the cross-channel ferry, and get it installed for a re-start possibly as early as Sunday. However, Golding is also examining the possibility of having a new rig built by Alucarbon at their factory in France. 'We are looking at all our options and all our timings to try and work out whether we can do all this inside the nine days that we have remaining, while the start of the Vendee stays open. If we can, I plan to re-start the race and even if I can't head for a good position in it, I will strike out for the record which will be just as good. So there's an agenda and some motivation there to get going,' Golding said.
Team Group 4 needs new furling gear and there is minor damage to one rudder, one daggerboard, the pushpit and to the hull. But, as has always been the case, Group 4 has once again given Golding the go-ahead financially to try and get the boat ready. 'There is a rather long (job) list but our team's known to come up trumps in the past and it's quite possible that they will be able to do something this time,' added Golding. 'It's very difficult to say what we're going to do - we just have to wait.'
This is another cruel blow to Golding who started the Vendee as a potential winner. It might have been his last single-handed race and was an opportunity to avenge his own mistake of Cape Rienga in the Around Alone Race when he ran aground while leading the race. But Golding is nothing if not a fighter and everyone is rallying round, both in Britain and in France to try and get him back on the water.