Sailing: Golding's global plan firmly on course

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The Independent Online

With a tick in each of his first two boxes, Mike Golding was in a strong position yesterday at the end of the first week of the Vendée Globe round-the- world race.

He had avoided the problem of 2000, when he was dismasted after only eight hours, and, as part of his stated aims, was in the leading group of six.

All 20 of the single-handers, who left Les Sables d'Olonne last Sunday, enjoyed a mainly straightforward run south, the leaders reaching the Canaries in a record four-and-a-half days. Golding, despite a few high-stress moments, that included his 66-footer Ecover being flattened, has been in uncharacteristically relaxed mood.

The 44-year-old has positioned himself on the west flank but hopes it will pay dividends over the next few days as the winds ease down and the fleet begins to bunch.

"I'm getting focused on drawing close to the doldrums and how I'll be getting through," he said. "But I feel I am up and running. It is totally different to four years ago. This is a proper race."

He has been cat-napping for only 15-to-20-minute spells and his British rivals - Alex Thomson in Hugo Boss and in particular, Conrad Humphreys in Hellomoto - have been feeling the strain, as has the Cowes-based Australian Nick Moloney in Skandia. Hum-phreys had to recover from two spinnaker snarl-ups during what he described as six hours of hell.

Jean le Can, for the first time since the start, took over the lead from Vincent Riou by a slender 1.6 miles, with Sébastien Josse third. Thomson is fourth, Roland Jourdain fifth, with Golding completing the top six as an 80-mile gap opened up ahead of the seventh-placed Moloney.

Ashore in Denmark yesterday, the International Sailing Federation, at their annual jamboree, decided on the boats for the 2008 Olympics. All the old favourites retained their places, the Laser Radial replacing the Europe as the women's single-hander and the Neil Pryde Rs-X ousting the Mistral windsurfer.

The self-inflicted obstacle to progress was an attempt to comply with the International Olympic Committee's policy of having at least 20 per cent of sports governing-body councils occupied by women.

At their mid-year meeting the federation had been bundled into agreeing a proposal to meet that aim. The word "shall" in the proposal means it is mandatory, but the ruling ignored the problem that most of the member countries had already nominated people for next year's new council, and less than 20 per cent of them were women.