Skipper who was just too professional

Andy Rice finds the secret of Group 4's success is as good as Golding

Two years ago at Earl's Court in London, Chay Blyth welcomed almost 200 people, each of whom had been persuaded to pay pounds 18,750 for the privilege of sailing the wrong way around the world. They were gathered to find out which of the 14 boats they would be racing aboard in the BT Global Challenge.

Only Blyth knew the allocations. Within minutes, however, one team stood out from the rest. As Blyth announced the crew of Group 4, their skipper Mike Golding presented each of his new team-mates with a bundle of clothing and asked them to change immediately into their matching uniforms. No other team was so organised. A few weeks later the new recruits purchased their pounds 200 Le Chameau sailing boots for their round-the-world adventure. Unfortunately for Andy Girling, his pair had a blue gaiter, not the red specified as part of Group 4 team colours. Golding told him to buy a second pair.

To some, Golding might appear to be a man sartorially obsessed. But to Humphrey Walters, such anecdotes are a mark of Golding's leadership skills and his dogged quest for perfection. Walters is chief executive of the management training company MaST Organisation, one of the sponsors for the race.

Last year Walters and his MaST colleagues spent a four-day session assessing all 14 skippers before the race began. He drew up a "batting order" of the strongest contenders. Top of the list was Group 4, followed by Toshiba Wave Warrior, Concert, Save the Children and Motorola. As the boats crossed the finish line in Southampton Water last week, Walters' prediction proved to be spot on, bar his inclusion of Concert, which had suffered a dismasting.

Such accuracy surprised even Walters, but it confirmed what he suspected all along - that this race was not going to be a test of super sailing skills so much as a test of leadership and teamwork. To Walters, Golding appeared one of the more "people-oriented" skippers.

In a way, Golding's victory was no great surprise; he was by far the most experienced skipper in the fleet. In 1993 he had missed winning the first wrong-way-round-the-world race, the British Steel Challenge, when Nuclear Electric pipped them by 90 minutes. He then took the same yacht - suitably modified - on a single-handed tour of the globe to smash Chay Blyth's 21-year-old record by 125 days.

But no one had guessed just how much he would dominate the Global Challenge. After all, he had been presented with roughly the same motley crew as every other skipper that day at Earl's Court. This did not stop him winning five of the six legs and beating Toshiba Wave Warrior by more than two days.

Timon Robson, one of Golding's crew, puts their success down to their skipper's emphasis on doing everything as a team. "One of Mike's policies was that from day one we would stick together. Even when we weren't on the boat we would make a specific effort to go out to dinner as a crew, to go to bars as a crew, all wearing identical uniform. Mike made sure there were no splinter groups. It was very noticeable that with many of the other boats you would see just two or three of them."

Golding attributes much of his success to skills he learned running a 17-man watch at Slough Fire Station in the early Eighties. "Everything you do on the fire station is geared to that time when the bells go down. Everything we did on the boat was geared towards that time when the start gun went off."

While much of the media focus has been on the dissent and near-mutiny that dogged other boats, Group 4 never appeared anything other than united in purpose. Not that Golding was without his dissenters. While his own goal, clearly, was to win the race, he had been careful not to assume that every team member would share his enthusiasm. "People have all sorts of reasons for entering this race, and it is not always to go out and win it," he said. "The key is to find a middle ground that you're all comfortable with. I would say that the majority of the team want to win the race, but there were a couple of people who would have been comfortable with a less strenuous approach.

Golding's argument was simple. "You pay pounds 18,750 for a ticket round the world. That is not where the challenge lies. The real challenge is to excel at what you do. You never regret the effort you do make; you only regret the things where you didn't make an all-out effort."

The dissenters were soon won round, but other boats did not warm to Group 4's approach. "There was a feeling that Group 4 was a lot further down the track than the others," he said. Victory, however, has returned the 37-year-old to almost universal popularity, although he has bowed out of further involvement in Blyth's quadrennial challenge. For some, Golding will remain the skipper who was too thorough in a race designed for fee-paying amateurs. For Golding, there could not be a higher accolade.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot