Mike Golding, OBE is regarded as one of the world’s best offshore racing sailors. He first came into the public eye, in 1994, when – having already skippered a yacht in Sir Chay Blyth’s , east about, British Steel Challenge - he established a new world record for the same voyage, solo.
Over the last decade, Golding has been at the forefront of the professional Open 60 class, achieving podium positions in major events and setting three world sailing records.
In 2001, Golding’s partnership with ecological cleaning products manufacturer Ecover began and led to the establishment of an Academy for Youth Sailors from around the world.
Before the race, you said that you and Ecover were not the best of friends, have you developed a better relationship now?
Mike Golding: She gives me all sorts of concerns, but my biggest concern is that I’m still waiting for something to break. So far, so good and I get the feeling that, when the boat is working, it’s on the pace. I feel fine then. However, I’m being very, very careful with her, and I’m finding I have to think about the things I do far more than I perhaps have with other boats in the past, because she generally just seems more susceptible to problems.
It’s so easy to make stupid mistakes on this boat, because she’s very complicated. Just by pulling the wrong bit of string you can cause another problem somewhere else and, down below, if you open the wrong ballast, at the wrong time, with the wrong valves open you can end up flooding the boat. You have to really know what you are doing and when you are tired and under a bit of pressure working in a difficult environment it’s easy to make a mistake.
You haven’t had much luck in previous Vendées, and it was the same in the Velux, does this affect you, or do you see each race as a brand new opportunity to win?
Mike Golding: Every new race is an opportunity to win.
You’ve admitted to hating climbing the mast, did you go up to check your spreaders after the Beyou news?
Mike Golding: No, we don’t have the same systems onboard Ecover 3
You have this system called Synboat, from Meteo France, which you said before the start was complicated for you. Are you more at home with it now?
Mike Golding: We had some good training sessions before the start and there is nothing like learning on the job.
Dee said, some time ago, that she was all over the place because every grib she looked at was different. Do you think it’s now a case of getting too much weather info?
Mike Golding: It is good to be able to explore every option, but I do not feel that it is a case of too much information as in a race that is a close as this it is important to be able to look at all the options and opportunities and see if there is something that another competitor might have missed.
Ecover seems to have gone especially well in bumpy upwind conditions. Is this something to do with the boat’s design, or is it because of the way you sail it?
Mike Golding: The boat's up there in speed and performance you know, we’ve been quick all the way down the track even on the down hill sections we’ve never really lost any noticeable ground on the leader other than regular compressions and extensions, so you know I think the boat’s got the potential to do very well we’ve just got to hope pray that it all stays together and we can complete the course.
Is the freeze dried food intake getting any easier?
Mike Golding: Yes, much more palatable now. I think my system has got used to freeze dried food, but one of the spicy meals still gives me indigestion! Generally it is really tasty and I will choose a freeze dried meal over pasta or a 'Westler' boil in a bag meal.
Which do you find hardest to handle, stifling heat or freezing cold?
Mike Golding: I don't like either to be honest!
Ecover makes environmentally friendly products, wouldn’t it be more in keeping with your sponsor if you were emulating Francis Joyon and going round the world using only eco-friendly power sources?
Mike Golding: This is a good question and the simple answer is yes, of course we should!
We are in fact running Ecover's electrical systems in part from wind power, using an Airex wind generator. We have tried solar on our previous boats and found them to be unreliable and inefficient. Our engine (and the fuel for it) is a safety requirement of the IMOCA /Vendee rule, in our case we are using specialist super efficient technology which we developed for a fully "Hybrid" drive and charging system, which in March 2007 I proposed to IMOCA to be accepted for this Vendee Globe. This was declined by the class, however our work was not completely wasted as we have been able to embrace some of the good bits of technology to reduce our footprint to a practical minimum.
Ecover’s ethical and environmental credentials are a seriously tough act to follow; we have to be pragmatic in our approach to the environment, if we are to reach our goal of success in the Vendee Globe. As a competitive team we do not have the luxury of making these choices. In a competitive race you must respect the rules and choose the most competitive configuration; in a record attempt you can set your own individual agenda's and goals.
I do hope that our voyage around the world will continue serve to educate about the environment and inspire more thought provoking questions such as this one.