Quartet mount lone challenge to French

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The Independent Online

After the wave of gold and silver which enveloped Britain's sailors in Sydney, the long distance loner squad was dreaming of similar glory in London yesterday. Like their Olympic counterparts, they are better funded than ever before and were outlining their dream of challenging the French might in the toughest test in ocean racing, the Vendée Globe.

After the wave of gold and silver which enveloped Britain's sailors in Sydney, the long distance loner squad was dreaming of similar glory in London yesterday. Like their Olympic counterparts, they are better funded than ever before and were outlining their dream of challenging the French might in the toughest test in ocean racing, the Vendée Globe.

Ahead of them is a 25,000-mile challenge that has already claimed lives and thoroughly tested the boatbuilding skills of the best in the world.

This is the race that almost claimed the life of Tony Bullimore four years ago before he was rescued by the Australian Navy after surviving in his upturned yacht for four days. Carrying out a heroic rescue of his own was Pete Goss who turned back to pick up the French competitor Raphael Dinelli, stranded on his upturned hull 1,200 miles from anywhere.

Stepping into Bullimore and Goss's shoes for the Vendée start from Les Sablef d'Olonne on 5 November are Mike Golding, Ellen MacArthur, Josh Hall and Richard Tolkien. None underestimate the task ahead, but they represent Britain's best chance yet of breaking the Gallic domination of a French-inspired and organised race.

MacArthur has already put down her marker by winning the Singlehanded Transatlantic race earlier this year in her new Open 60, Kingfisher. Ahead of her lies at least 100 days of racing, probably more. "It's been a big build up and for the next two weeks it only gets harder and harder," she said. "I want to go, I'm ready to go and I'm not too worried, but if you're not worried at all you shouldn't be doing the race."

Golding, the skipper of Team Group 4, has been round before. "I want to do the best job I can, you have to go into this with a clear target," he said. That means winning, and he is one of the favourites, along with Michel Desjoyeux, Tomas Coville and Yves Parlier.

Hall, once rescued in the Around Alone, once dismasted in the same race, is confident in Gartmore, but Tolkien just wants to finish, having been given a sabbatical, but no money to achieve his dream.

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