Winds favour Mike Golding as he pursues the Vendée Globe leaders

For once it is paying not to be in the lead of the Vendee Globe. As the front duo Vincent Riou and Jean le Cam have been experienced light winds overnight so fifth placed Mike Golding on Ecover has been able to recoup some ground on them, pulling back 140 miles over the last 24 hours.

This morning Golding was sailing in northwesterly breeze but in an awkward swell, the sea state preventing him from driving Ecover at maximum pace. “It’s been fairly quiet really,” said the British skipper, in jovial mood. “Steadily jogging along, almost fully downwind in quite big seas – 4-5m swell, so consequently it has been difficult to run with Code sails as there’s a risk of breaking something. As a result it has been quite low stress because we are running the Code Eco and full main. So I’ve eaten well and slept a lot – generally just trying to recuperate.”

The burning question at present for Golding and the boats immediately ahead of him is whether to pass north or south of the remote Kerguelen archipelago 230 miles due east of Ecover. “I have spent half the night going to the south and half the night going to the north because the weather files keep changing,” said Golding. “It is a little frustrating because I have wasted some time somewhere.”

Going south has the attraction of sailing less miles, but heading southeast to leave Kerguelen on his port side in the moderate wind strength forecast is looking like it will be slower as due to the sea state Golding doesn’t want to risk using his spinnaker or powerful ‘Code’ sails. Going north will allow him to say on a faster point of sail. “There are other advantages of going south namely I think you should get some shelter from the islands which will give you a little squirt I would imagine some better sailing for a few hours,” says Golding.

The other issue is overtaking fourth placed Sebastien Josse on board the boat that won the Vendee Globe four years ago. This morning Josse appeared to be heading north of Kerguelen and Golding doesn’t want to become separated from him.

“It is a real tricky one, there are so many pros and cons,” Golding continues. “At the moment I am just sailing best speed and semi-ignoring the island. I know there is a shift coming the question is how big the shift is. If it is not that big I could go to the south, but if it is what is expected – which I think it will be – it will hook me up and over to the north. So at the moment I am just waiting for the next weather files. In fairness I have had three weather files in a row all saying much the same thing so the opportunity for me to get around the bottom of island is slowly slipping away.”

Situated at the north of the Kerguelen Plateau, effectively a 1,000 mile long underwater mountain range beneath the Southern Ocean, the Kerguelen archipelago comprises one main island measuring 120 x 140km and around 300 outlying islands. The sea state can get extremely dangerous here in strong winds as the bottom shelves up from around 2km to around 100m.

In the Vendee Globe four years ago Golding stopped on the south side of the main island on Christmas eve to climb the mast and sort out problem with his headsail furling gear.