Mike Golding and Ellen talk about their Route du Rhum

MichDes still to finish + 1500 GMT positions

Saturday November 23rd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
At 1500 GMT Michel Desjoyeaux on Geant was still 71 miles away from the finish line although he was making 17 knots (see page 3 for the latest positions). Assuming he would slow down while rounding the back of the island and making the return passage to the finish line off Pointe a Pitre, it was likely that Mich would finish early this evening, to take the elapsed time prize for the race and class 1 multihull win and its associated prize money

Hitting the dock earlier today Ellen MacArthur and second placed Mike Golding answered questions for the press.

Of the 2002 Route du Rhum Ellen commented: "It’s been a magnificent race, great, the best! And if I had to leave again tomorrow I would not hesitate!" Mike Golding concurred: “This was probably the toughest singlehanded race I have ever done. It was very tough racing but very enjoyable. It is a good race, tactical, tough, relentless pressure. I remember thinking this is why I am doing this.”

Despite Guadeloupe being a French island and the first two arrivals being British both skippers were greeted by massive cheers in crowds to a town full of well wishers.

"It’s a finish where I’ve gone through a lot of emotions," said Ellen of the reception. "It was quite extraordinary! I was so shocked, it’s hard to imagine. It was an enormous sensation and there are not words enough to express how amazing it was."

Although Michel Desjoyeaux looks set to win the race outright on his trimaran Geant (the multihulls set off 24 hours after the monos it should be remembered) there has been a sort of morale victory for Mike and Ellen in simply being first to cross the finish line.

“Well it’s great, but I am more surprised that we are ahead of the multis!" commented Golding. "When I saw them all in Saint-Malo, I would never have imagined that we would be here ahead of them!”

Ellen MacArthur said she didn't feel it was remarkable that two British boats were first and second. " I see no difference between the French and the English as I feel European above everything else. And when you’re racing everyone is equal and you have to battle against the others regardless of nationality. "

During the first week both boats had to sail upwind into the teeth of a storm, that gave them a severe pasting. "In the Vendée Globe, I never had a storm like that!" said Ellen. "I was clipped on for two days. I even went down below clipped on. The waves came in diagonally from behind and three times I keeled right over! The storm was very, very powerful. But we know that the monos are more robust than the multis in these conditions. In addition, with a mono you can always bear away (distance yourself from direction of the wind) and not follow a direct course to stop your boat from suffering. There were some pretty full on moments but you still have a choice! "

One of the reasons for Ellen's victory was the gear failure on board Ecover. "I am missing a daggerboard, but I don’t think it cost me that much," commented Golding. "It cost me a little bit of the upwind section. I lost both my spinnakers, unfortunately, that was a killer. A killer in three ways: 1) You lose time for repair. I lost four hours trying to recuperate the sail. 2) You lose position, and end up tactically wrong. 3) You lose later on because you do not have the right equipment. Ellen had three spinnakers and lost two. I had two spinnakers and lost two. What do we learn from that…”

However Kingfisher also had her share of breakages. "I tore a spinnaker but it wasn’t serious because I had three on board," confirmed Ellen. "I also broke a gennaker halyard which I had to rethread. I experienced problems with the computer which crashed every three hours and I had a little hydraulic leak but nothing serious! "

Like Golding, Ellen had to go up the mast. "To climb the mast is stressful but it’s not hard. When I had a problem, I didn’t have to think twice about it, I just had to get up there. What was really hard was to drop and hoist the sails. To drop a spinnaker to put up a Code 5 and then realise that it’s not working and that you have to drop the sail again in order to hoist another, that’s hard!"

Aside from this Ellen felt that Kingfisher was ready to go again... " The boat has been super, we have had a lot of fun together. My strongest memory is the pleasure I’ve had aboard! It is hard getting used to the idea that I will have to leave it." Tentatively this is the last singlehanded race Ellen sees herself doing aboard her Open 60.

Both skippers agreed that the race had been a great competition. "This race has been really hard and I would like to share this victory with my entire team who helped me," said Ellen. "I was never alone. This result is down to team work, especially during the months spent preparing the boat. The motivation is energy passion, emotion from everyone around. And the people following the project have spent some moments that weren’t easy. I think about those who are behind a lot when I’m out there.

"Mike and I were fighting like mad!" she continued. "We had a good gybing battle to find the right place to get out of the anticyclone. It was easy to win and lose miles in a single gybe. One time I would win the miles, then it would be Mike. And it was like that all the time.

Aside from the competition the Trade Wind sailing was staggeringly fast. "Once there were 25 to 28 knots for three hours! I couldn’t drop the spinnaker, or leave the helm. I was surfing at 22/23 knots, it was enormous! The boat was like a dinghy. And if I had made a mistake on the helm it would have been all over. I did that once and the boat keeled over at 90°! It was full on but I didn’t break anything! "

Continued on page 2...

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