Why Mike thinks dismasting may have been lucky...
Solo sailor Mike Golding has revealed that all through the period he was building up to lead the Vendee Globe Race, he was worried about the prospects of ECOVER 3’s keel failing:
‘Losing the mast has left me emotionally empty and gutted. This was my third Vendée Globe and I was bullish about my potential for going all the way to the top slot, but when Dominique Wavre’s keel head failed on Tenemon II it was playing very heavily on my mind though.
‘In the true spirit of this sport, Dominique telephoned me to tell me of his keel problem virtually immediately after he discovered it. We have keels of the same design, built at different places, but fundamentally identical.”
‘This had left me in a crazily diabolical dilemma. The keel head breaking could easily cost you your life. It will happen completely unpredictably and at speed the boat will instantly crash into a broach. If you are on deck you could be flung over the side to certain death, if you are below you may well be injured. If you survive the break then you are left with a mortally damaged boat, which in storm conditions may break up and sink.
‘Four weeks ago I discovered cracking around my keel head and in consultation with engineers we had concluded that this was superficial fairing rather than structure. But when Dominique phoned me there was little doubt left that we may well have a potentially serious problem.
‘In this knowledge, for the past week of racing I had somehow managed to continue to work the boat , convincing myself that “my keel” would somehow be OK.
‘Whilst the engineers studied the problem and gave me some rather unconvincing assurances, I ran the boat with the keel at 80/90% cant, reducing the risk but making staying with the lead pack ever more difficult.
‘With the shore team we decided that we would monitor the keel head cracks and make a final decision, “in or out of the race” at the Western Australian ice gate. We either turned right and continued back down into the southeast and the next gate or we keep going northeast retiring from the race, like Dominque and head for Perth.
‘I was not about to quit easily and certainly not from such a competitive position in the race.
‘But continuing was easily going to rank as the most stressful situation I have ever put myself in. Despite the wranglings I had basically made my mind up even before I put down the phone to Dominique – this is the Vendée, I am a serious contender – I want to continue!
‘So it’s a cruel irony that it is entirely possible that the mast breaking has inadvertently actually saved my life! Perhaps someone “up there” really is watching out for me? And quite possibly I am as I have always thought – the absolute luckiest – unlucky person on the planet.’
MIKE ARRIVED IN AUSTRALIA UNDER JURY RIG ON CHRISTMAS DAY.