Mystery break hits sad Golding

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The Independent Online

It has been a savage first week in the world of the Vendée Globe as the 24 solo round-the-world competitors steeled themselves for the torturous goodbyes that never came when storm-force winds prevented the race from starting from north-western France last Sunday.

It has been a savage first week in the world of the Vendée Globe as the 24 solo round-the-world competitors steeled themselves for the torturous goodbyes that never came when storm-force winds prevented the race from starting from north-western France last Sunday.

And now, since the race finally got under way on Thursday afternoon, the physical decimation has begun. First back into Les Sables d'Olonne after less than 12 hours at sea was Roland Jourdain, skipper of the highly-fancied Sill. Jourdain was met by his dentist, who fixed a couple of smashed front teeth at around about the same time as Mike Golding was struggling to cut free Team Group 4's wingmast, which had mysteriously toppled over the side.

Golding was back at Les Sables by daybreak on Friday mystified and forlorn, his hopes as one of the race favourites shattered. Four years ago Christophe Augin won the Vendée Globe by more than a week, and if Golding is able to ship his spare mast to France, organise new sails and get Team Group 4 ready to leave by Friday, he will only be just over a week behind. But the game has moved on in the last four years. "There are too many good sailors for me realistically to have a chance," Golding said yesterday. "What I now want to do is get back out there and set the record for the fastest circumnavigation."

Last night Yves Parlier was leading from Michel Des-joyeaux and Ellen MacArthur - whose Kingfisher was revelling in the upwind conditions. Already pre-start strategies are reaching their sell-by dates. Whether to turn hard left out of the Bay of Biscay and hug the coast or to head on west to look for more wind was the call overnight. Jean Yves Bernot's pre-start forecast for MacArthur was the coastal route, although that may no longer be valid. Parlier, Desjoyeaux and MacArthur are closer to the coast, more than 150 miles south of a group that looks set to head offshore. By lunch, the first major tactical decision of this 100 plus-day race will have been made.

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