Ten years after he raced his last Vendée Globe, finishing sixth, British yachtsman Mike Golding is back on an IMOCA, making ready to compete on the upcoming Transat Jacques Vabre, and says he’d still love to do a fifth Vendée Globe.
« Yes, I mean if a fairy godmother came along now with the right boat and the right project I’d still jump at it. » Chuckles Golding, now 63, « In my head I’d love to, but in truth the game has moved on so much since I last raced. But it never leaves you. The Vendée Globe is the sport I love and I still think about it all the time and wonder. »
Golding is working with Chinese solo racer Jingkun Xu also known as ‘Jackie’, who lost part of his left arm as a teenager. But while the duo’s short term objective is to complete the Transat Jacques Vabre, Golding is unequivocal that his interest is about helping Jackie be the best sailor he can be when he takes on the 2024-5 Vendée Globe.
Golding met the team during the last Route du Rhum : « I was offered this beautifully cooked Chinese meal in the cockpit and we got talking. » Explains Golding « Jackie and his team approached me and I love the idea of being able to contribute to him fulfilling the challenge he faces on the Vendée Globe. That is what appeals to me. His story fascinates me and it was fascinating to go sailing with him and see how he handles the boat. One remarkable thing is that all of the tens of thousands of ocean miles Jackie has sailed is they have all be solo, singlehanded, so when Golding sailed with him in fact it was the first time he had sailed with a co-skipper. »
« Something to start with was, predictably, communication. Jackie has quite a limited English vocabulary and I have no Chinese, but we seemed to manage. We are working on that. But a funny thing happened during one night when it was windy and the J3 started to unwind on the furler and suddenly we had the sail flapping everywhere in the wind. And we were up there on the foredeck together and it is amazing how you don’t need to communicate when you are both on the same page trying to achieve something and I just forgot completely he has only one arm. He just gets on with it. Thirty minutes later we had everything under control. » Recalls Golding.
« But the slight problem is he has only sailed himself and so his techniques are very much self taught, and these are not always the most effective techniques. He is very conservative and to a certain extent happy to stay that way because he has to finish every race to be able to take the start of the Vendée Globe. But that is something to work on. » Golding explains.
The duo are now ready to cross the Atlantic : « The Transat Jacques Vabre will be his first race with another person. But he is such a nice guy, full of enthusiasm. He is totally unique and knows how to make it all work but he knows his limitations, and believe me he does not seem to have many. It was amazing to watch him tie a bowline one handed, for example. His life has been about adapting and it is a great adventure. » It’s the kind of story about human beings and transmission that we love in offshore racing!