Mike Golding made a 'seat-of-the-pants' decision last night that has seen Ecover make a small but significant gain on close rival Mike Sanderson

Mike Golding made a ‘seat-of-the-pants’ decision last night that has seen Ecover make a small but significant gain on close rival Mike Sanderson. “We were heading along as normal with a piece of string tying us together. We were sailing along the edge of a depression, and the routing plan took us right through the bottom half of it. I was a little more headed than expected, and suddenly found myself having to bear away massively.

“Suddenly I was miles off course, one moment I was matching Pindar on the same routing plan, the next thing I was careering off in a completely different direction, but the routing seemed to have missed this little detail, I don’t know why. The long and short of it was that I got such a big windshift, I thought, what the hell, let’s give it a try. There was no time for niceties, no time for stacking gear on the new side, I just threw the boat round. I thought I could spend the next two or three hours clearing up the boat, but here I am half a day later with stuff still stacked on the wrong side.”

There has been plenty to do on board, as the conditions have changed massively, with Ecover crashing through 43 knots of breeze at one point and barely moving at another. “I got myself so knackered that I crashed out for quite a long time! My alarm was set for an hour, but I didn’t hear it, which meant I was sleeping through a 100 decibel car alarm for the last two and a half hours.”

Golding admits he broke his golden rule of never sleeping with the generator running. “I was a bit down on power, and I didn’t want the autopilot doing anything funny while I was asleep, so I started up the generator. Some people like sleeping with engine noise in the background, and I’m one of those people. It helps me sleep well, too well really, and the trouble is it drowns out other ambient noises around the boat.”

Golding woke with a jolt when he realised he had overslept, but he was relieved to discover that he was hanging on to a healthy lead of 23 miles over Sanderson. He is surprised that his rival didn’t take the same route around the depression, but reckons that both of them are now running low on energy. “I think we’re both getting tired. He was following his routing ruthlessly, and maybe missed what was going on around us. You’re caught in a dilemma out here. There’s too much to do on board in these changeable conditions, and you don’t whether to expend the mental energy at the nav table or the physical energy up on deck, making sail changes.”

This is why Golding has not yet turned his attention to the stack of sails and toolboxes still sitting uselessly to leeward. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve just left stuff there for so long, but I’ve got three hours before a gybe, and I’m not going to bother. There is a point where energy is better expended on other jobs, and believe me, there is plenty else to do.”