Loneliness and the ever-present threat of ice are on Mike Golding's mind

New Year is a bad time for anyone to be alone, thinking of how everybody else seems to be having a great time together. Mike Golding admits to feeling a touch of the “Southern Ocean blues” today, and wonders if it’s because of the festive time of year, realising all that he’s missing back home. The Ecover skipper isn’t usually one given to sentimentality, but he must be aching to see his wife Andrea and young son Soren, who is learning how to pedal his new tricycle.

But probably the greater reason for him being down in the dumps is just the sheer, nasty relentlessness of the Southern Ocean – the cold, the constant damp, and on this occasion the ever-present danger of icebergs. “I’ve never seen so much ice down here as this time. Whether it’s reported or visually spotted, it doesn’t matter, the risk and the stress is the same. It will be good to get past the Horn, because getting into the Atlantic should bring some relief from that risk. But we won’t be fully clear of it until we’re past the Falklands.”

Tactically, recent times have not been kind to Golding or Vincent Riou 70 miles ahead. The leader Jean Le Cam has been streaking away to a useful lead of 264 miles on PRB and 332 miles on Ecover, as of 0400 hours this morning. “PRB and I have had a shabby few days,” admitted Golding. “We’ll have to wait for some payback, but at least we’re pointing at the Horn, and reaching the Horn should create some sort of compression and perhaps get us back to where we were, around the 200-mile mark.”

At least his much-desired exit from the Southern Ocean looks set to be a speedy one. “We’re looking at a fast last thousand miles.” One of the annoying and unexpected side-effects of travelling so fast, however, is the failure of his watermaker to work properly. “I can’t clear the water out of the system, so the sink is always backing up and I’m having to empty it myself. I think there might be a pressure wave under the boat where it’s travelling so fast, and that might be stopping the thing from clearing down. I’d like to sort it out and I might have to do some plumbing work, but at the moment it’s limiting my opportunities to make water. It’s just a nuisance really.”

It’s not often that an excess of speed gives Golding a cause for complaint, and in the scheme of things he’s happy to be travelling as fast as he is. “I think we might be looking at getting the fastest Cape-to-Cape speed,” he said, referring to the time spent racing from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn. “I was 700 miles behind then, and now it’s a lot less, so we must be looking good for that.”

Golding signed off with a new year’s message for his growing legion of fans. “I wish you all a very happy new year. There’s still a long way to go, so keep your eye out. Hopefully we can bring this race home.”