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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 18:59 GMT
Golding gunning for Globe glory
By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport

Mike Golding
The scariest times are when its low visibility, lots of ice and you're surfing down giant swells at 30 knots.

Solo sailor Mike Golding is set to embark on a spot of unfinished business as he lines up for the start of the Vendee Globe single-handed around-the-world race on Sunday.

Three years ago, in the last edition of the race - which launched Ellen MacArthur onto the world stage - Golding's boat was dismasted eight hours after the start.

He restarted eight days later, surging through the 24-strong fleet to finish seventh in 102 days, recording the fourth fastest time for the race.

And now the 44-year-old Briton is gunning for revenge.

"When the mast came down, almost my earliest thought was, 'I'm going to have to do this all again,' because I'm not a quitter," Golding told BBC Sport.

"Without being big-headed, my presence at the front of the fleet would have changed the face of the race.

"I'm not saying I would have won it, but I could have won it."

Mike Golding on Ecover
Length: 20.1m (60ft)
Mast height: 26m (80ft)
Beam: 5.7m (19ft)
Draft: 4.5m
Sail area: Upwind - 260 sq m; Downwind - 500 sq m

MacArthur went onto finish second behind France's Michel Desjoyeaux to become the fastest woman and youngest person - at 24 - to lap the planet solo.

"Clearly she achieved something quite extraordinary," said Golding. "Her unique selling point was her age and gender and there's not much I can do about that. But I don't feel I'm in her shadow in sailing terms."

Nor does Golding think being alone on your own for up to 100 days in some of the most treacherous seas and foulest weather on the planet is a sport for madmen.

"Anything that's extreme like this is not normal. I can understand that," he said.

"You couldn't do something like this and not feel apprehension. No matter who you are, it's a daunting task to sail around the world.

"But fundamentally we're sportsmen trying to excel at the top level of their sport.
Food: 60% freeze dried, 40% fresh/pre-packaged. Total weight about 200kgs. Budgeted for 95 days at sea.
Luxuries: Books, CDs, DVDs, champagne, whisky
Sleep: 4-5 hours total per 24 hours, split into small chunks, often as little as 17 mins

"And for solo sailors the grandaddy of all is the Vendee Globe. It's the top of the chain, it's the one to win and the one that marks you out from all the rest.

"Originally, people sailed solo around the world for fairly esoteric reasons. While those are still valid, we're looking for a bit more than that. As professional sailors, it's the competition we crave."

You need a bit of escapism - there are periods of boredom as well as periods of intense fear

But how does he keep driving himself on when he's cold, wet, tired, lonely and scared?

"Every single-hander's speciality is that we are the ultimate in self-motivators," said Golding.

"When the conditions are tough you just knuckle down, start breaking tasks down into little chunks and work at it until you pop out the other side.

"When you do there's a tremendous feeling of gratification and personally perhaps you even exceed your own boundaries.

"Being motivated keeps me away from the solitude. On racing yachts these days there are more phone lines than in my office in Southampton.

"You never really feel truly disconnected except for when things go wrong and you're miles from anywhere. But there's a thrill to that which the solo sailor thrives on."

Like most around-the-world sailors, Golding is looking ahead to the infamous Southern Ocean - 15,000 miles and 45 days' sailing from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn - with trepidation.

Mike Golding sailing Ecover. Photo: Jon Nash
You get a very genuine sense of scale of the planet and a real sense of your own insignificance
"The Southern Ocean is without question what everyone fears," he said.

"It's the longest part of the course where you're likely to have the worst storms, the worst seas, icebergs and fog.

"When you're sailing this close to Antarctica you're sailing close to deep depressions and your goal is to get dragged along by them.

"It will be relentless but our boats relish these conditions so there's positives and negatives. The scariest times will be when it's low visibility, lots of ice and you're surfing down giant swells in excess of 30 knots.

"It's a very hostile place but also a very beautiful place. You get a very genuine sense of scale of the planet and a real sense of your own insignificance.

"If you have a problem there you have very little prospect of assistance. We go out trained and equipped to handle every problem but we're likely to have to help each other.

"I'll be glad when it's over and I'll be keeping a little bottle of champagne to open at Cape Horn."

Golding will be leaving behind his wife Andrea and their son Soren, who is 18 months old.

The pair met when Andrea was a crew-member on Golding's victorious BT Global Challenge-winning boat in 1996-97.

"She understands the risks involved and it's fair to say the Vendee Globe is not her favourite race," said Golding.

"But she knows it's one of those things I've got to do."

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