The chase was on at Cape Horn yesterday as solo yachtsman Mike Golding hunted down the two men ahead of him in the Vendée Globe round-the-world race. Approaching one of the most notorious turning points in the ocean, the 44-year-old from Southampton had closed down the gap between himself and the leader, Jean Le Cam, from nearly 300 miles to just over 100 and was also tracking faster than the second-placed Vincent Riou, less than 50 miles ahead as darkness fell.
Going through the 7,000-miles-to-go marker, Le Cam had slowed to a crawl as Riou was making over 11 knots, Golding over 14. But Le Cam had knocked five days and nine hours off the previous best time, set by the 2000-01 winner Michel Desjoyeaux.
After a week in which his pre-race goal, of being no more than 200 miles behind any other leader at the Horn, seemed to be slipping away, this was a major morale boost for Golding.
He believes his yacht, the Open 60 Ecover, should have a significant performance advantage if the normally more upwind conditions prevail during the tricky journey back north through the St Helena high pressure zone, the Doldrums and the Azores high pressure zone.
Knowing that the breeze could run out for him, too, but still sailing in 30-to-40 knot winds, Golding said: "It is very frantic. It has been a mad night and is still pretty mad. There are moments when I feel in control and there are moments when it is totally out of control.
"It is a mad surf at the moment," he said, concerned about how hard he was pushing given the conditions. "It is a pivotal point. I sat there praying that Riou had slowed down, but he hasn't. So I am left with little choice - keep the pedal down."