A thousand miles from land and battered by storms, British solo sailor Mike Golding was sitting it out last night, waiting for a break in the weather, after his 60-foot Ecover had been dismasted.
"I am good, I am ok, I am pissed off, tired and cold. I am weary not just because of a weary day but a weary life, but don't quote me" was the summing up from a man in a very lonely part of the planet.
Golding, 48 and from Warsash in Hampshire, had taken the overnight lead in the Vendée Globe non-stop round the world race, a 27,000-mile, three-month marathon which is the peak of the singlehanded racing calendar.
But hopes of a first British win in the French-dominated event came crashing down when he was hit by a 50-knot (55mph) squall which stretched by two feet the 20-tonne strain lines holding up the 27-metre carbon fibre mast.
After 37 days battling for the lead, it was all over in two minutes and Golding was then involved in a frantic scramble to cut the mast away to prevent it from thrashing a hole through the hull. "A good sharp knife and a hacksaw and it was all done in 30 minutes," said an exhausted Golding later. "But I had to get rid of it as quickly as possible."
The boom was saved to use as a makeshift mast to help Golding limp north to Fremantle, the south of Perth, Australia, but he was waiting for the seas to calm before attempting to rig something to help him make his own way back to civilisation.
He was not asking for any outside help. "We don't like being rescued," he said, though it was he who had turned back to rescue his great rival Alex Thomson, another, earlier casualty of this Vendee, in the Velux 5 Oceans race. He was then rewarded by again being dismasted on his way up to Cape Town.
Clearly dejected, Golding had "battened down the hatches" as waves were still sweeping over the boat and another storm was forecast in the upcoming 24 hours. He then hopes to erect the boom and use a very limited selection of available sails.
The war at the front of what started out as a 30-boat fleet of Open 60s from Les Sables d'Olonne, on the Atlantic coast of France, south of Brittany, on 9 November has been relentless. Already 11 have given up and no-one would be surprise to see more being forced to pull out. Golding said he did not blame the headlong pace for what had been a short and catastrophic blow. "It's difficult to know how to absorb the bad luck," he said, "it just seems like the minute I take the lead in the Vendee Globe someone up there wants to stop me." But did say that there had been no sign of anyone backing off, "especially when Michel Desjoyeaux arrived. He has pushed the thing up a gear, without question."
Desjoyeaux, who won the race in 2000, when Ellen MacArthur recorded the best ever British result by coming second, has taken the lead despite having to go back immediately after the start to repair ballast tanks and restarting 40 hours late. Sam Davies is now into the top ten.
Broken boats: Vendée fallen
Mike Golding (GB) dismasted
Alex Thomson (GB) holed
Unai Basurko (Sp) rudder
Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty (Fr) multiple failures
Kito de Pavant (Fr) dismasted
Bernard Stamm (Swit) rudder/holed when ran aground
Loick Peyron (Fr) dismasted
Jérémie Bayou (Fr) mast/spreader damage
Yannick Bestaven (Fr) dismasted
Dominique Wavre (Swit) keel
Marc Thiercelin (Fr) dismastedReuse content