Why the French have been congratulating Mike Golding not commiserating with him


Most of the Vendée Globe skippers who retired from the race have returned to congratulate those who finished, overcoming deep disappointments and mixed feelings to do so.

To welcome in the British sailors, Mike Golding has come back to Les Sables d’Olonne and maybe it sweetens the bitter pill a little to see the great affection and esteem in which he is held here by the public, who stop him everywhere to have their photo taken alongside him or get an autograph for their child.

We had a few drinks last night, gathering steam for those coming parties, and he was pointing out how differently his situation is viewed compared to the UK. “Watch what people say to me,” he said.

At home Golding is universally commiserated on this race. In France the understanding is different; it’s broader and less results focussed.

One after one, people came up, shook his hand or kissed him and said the same things: “Thank you for your race, Mike,” or “Thank you for your story.”

The French love what they call “une belle histoire”. We do, too, though we don’t think about it consciously. But Mike’s right: what a nice thing it is, and what better appreciation could there be, win or lose, than to say: thanks for sharing a fantastic story.