Golding and Dubois bring up the rear
Breaking the line on a quiet, almost still, early morning off Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, Gamesa co-skippers, Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois, completed the Transat Jacques Vabre double handed race in ninth place. With the fleet of 13 Open 60s which started in Le Havre, France, on Wednesday 2 November reduced to nine by a succession of storms which battered the fleet with boat breaking condition during the first week of the race, Golding completed his record seven finishes from seven consecutive editions since 1999.
The duo finished the 4,730 miles course in a time of 17d 21h 42m 10s and were pushing hard to make places until the very final hours of the race. After a strategic decision to break to the south of the fleet relegated them from a strong early position, third at the half way point of the course, Golding and Dubois were unable to claw their way back into contention.
A succession of small technical problems – failure of their fleet broadband internet connection which allows them to download high resolution weather files to try to outmanoeuvre their rivals, and the loss of their wind instrumentation – did nothing to enhance their challenge.
Golding commented today that his seventh edition of the race has certainly been one of the very toughest, not just because of the battering taken by the teams during an unrelenting first week, when the big, confused seas were more of a threat than the winds, but because of the universally high standard of the fleet which has been forced to push harder than ever for every small gain. The high level of intensity has been endorsed successively by each of the teams which has finished into Costa Rica.
“My overriding feeling now is one of relief: it has been a very long and tough race,” said Golding. “The weather on this one was very much like the last one with a very decisive system that caused splits and division in the fleet. It was a very hard system with potentially, actually boat breaking conditions. And when you arrive in the Caribbean you think 'phew it is over', but really it isn't over, the Caribbean is tough to sail, even the last five days have been tough. It is a race with an extra 1,200 miles added on it!”
Finishing ninth is an unfortunate new experience for Golding but after two years away from big ocean races and with a boat which had just been modified with a new rig and steering system, the main goals were to finish and to learn the boat’s new characteristics in order to be competitive for the solo race, the Transat B to B, which returns across the Atlantic, starting on 5 December.
“We are disappointed of course with the result which is not what we would have wanted. But the reality is that we made a choice in the Atlantic to go south round an area of light winds partly driven by the fact we had no communications, no fleet broad band, so we couldn't get the big weather files, partly driven by the fact we had no wind instruments, so we were thinking we would go south, get some light weather, change out our wind instruments, try to fix the fleet broadband but it didn't work. It was not the right way to go.. But you make your choices, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. On this occasion they didn't work.
“For us it was so important to finish the race because in many respects the race back is more pertinent. We have a programme which runs through next year and it must stay on track and here we are on track. I feel very sorry for Bernard Stamm [who had to be airlifted from his boat with co-skipper JF Cuzon after it was damaged].
“This result is not what either of us thought we would get, but we were in the play. And we are not going to beat ourselves up about it. It feels bad just now. We were up in third and we we were vying with Macif and Banque Populaire. But we were very shaky after the start, very green and – to be honest – making mistakes I would have made 15 years ago. So when you put it in context it is something to go forward from with a lot of positives in our minds.
"Fundamentally I am happy with the boat. Alongside other boats we are OK on most of them, I think the newer boats are a bit quicker, but the Vendée Globe is more than just having a quick boat and that is the team’s ultimate focus."
Golding will be on the start line for the return journey, the Transat B to B, starting on 5 December from St Barths, and is expected to arrive around 18 December in Lorient, Brittany, France.