Sailing: Golding sets fearsome pace while Thomson struggles

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As Britain's Alex Thomson, with co-skipper Andrew Cape, was facing three days of frustration as they started the Barcelona two-handed non-stop round the world race here yesterday, the man who once rescued him, Mike Golding was, with his co-skipper Bruno Dubois, surging to the front of the other Open 60 fleet in the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Thomson, in his new Hugo Boss, was well to the fore as the nine boats left the Catalan capital in a 10-knot breeze on the 530-mile run to Gibraltar.

Meanwhile, Golding, who is sailing for just the seventh time in his new Ecover, was worried about whether his new steed would give him the competitive edge in next year's solo circumnavigation in the Vendée Globe.

In winds gusting over 20 knots, as he approached the half-way mark of the 4,300-mile test from Le Havre to Bahia de Salvador, Brazil, he moved from fifth to first and had a three-mile advantage over second-placed Kito de Pavant and Sebastien Col in Groupe Bel.

"The boat is living up to expectations and looks competitive," said Golding, "but we will see gains and losses again over the next 24 hours. We will go east of the Cape Verde Islands but then head hard west to skirt what looks like an unusually large area of the Doldrums."

Thomson is torn between pushing his boat through rigorous testing or gaining a good result having had to retire from his last two round the world attempts.

He is wary of race favourites Vincent Riou and Sebastien Josse, who lead from the start in their new PRB, thus forcing a chase.

Frustration on a race, which, as Roland Jourdain pointed out, sees people cooped even longer than most space station astronauts, could easily lead to friction.