Mike Golding and team take second place on the Calais Round Britain and Ireland Race, behhind Roland Jourdain on Sill

At 11 hours 22 minutes 25 seconds GMT on Sunday 29 May 2005 the crew of the 60ft monohull Ecover skippered by Mike Golding, crossed the finish line of the Calais Round Britain Race 2005. The Owen/Clarke design took 6 days 22 hours 52 minutes to cover the 1815 miles of this clockwise rounding of the British Isles from Calais to Calais at an average speed of 10.88 knots.

Ecover’s crew comprised: Brian Thompson (GBR), Neal McDonald (GBR), Laurent Mahy (BEL), Graham “Gringo” Tourell (GBR).

It has been a tortuous finish to an exciting and demanding race with Ecover set to take second place on the Calais Round Britain Race after a final 24 hours that has taxed the patience and concentration of the five man crew.

After six nights and six and a half days, and over 1,830 miles of sailing in good, breezes there was a ‘park up’ at the final mark off Dover where they struggled to stem the contrary tide in very light winds.

Despite having spent most of the last 18 hours trading tacks, and matching them move for move, Roland Jourdain ‘s Sill et Veolia escaped around the buoy and went on to take first place, taking the new monohull record for sailing fully crewed around Britain and Ireland.

Chatting from the boat this morning as they headed for the finish line Golding said: ” “We had a couple of bits of bad luck but the bottom line is that they overtook us and that’s it. I think it started when we had our problems with the cable laying ship yesterday when we had to sail in the wrong direction until we got the OK from them to cross their cable. We probably ended up going three miles straight across the course, maybe nearer to four miles when we thought we were going to have to go round the front of the vessel.

“We had some other issues with a daggerboard and other small things but the worrying thing is that Sill did overtake us upwind when we didn’t have the speed upwind but did seem to have speed downwind. We were worried that we may have had something on the boat because the numbers (the actual boat speeds compared with the target speeds for the actual wind speeds and direction) were all down and were getting strange weather information. It was just a catalogue of small things, but Sill coped with the wind shifts and gave us a great race. But it’s a yacht race and it’s frustrating to end like this.

“Sill had to fight to get round the mark but not nearly as long or as hard as us. We were close together until five miles out and now we’re still struggling to get to the finish. We are probably going to set a record for the slowest crossing from Dover to Calais!

“It is very disappointing, but the race itself has been fantastic. We’ve had a bit of everything and some very memorable sailing. It’s a good course, a tough, challenging course and it was a good turn to break the record, it’s just a shame it wasn’t us.”

Although second place is not what they would have chosen, the crew remain upbeat; largely thanks to the large number of exciting memories they will take from this race:

“We are a bit disappointed but we have had a hell of a laugh. It’s been great. We have really had a bit of everything. Rain, sun, running, beating it has been a fantastic race – it’s just a shame it ended in a ‘driftathon’. We have only just rounded the mark [off the beach at Dover]. From two miles from the mark it has been a complete ‘glass out’ and since then there has literally not been enough wind to sail. It is pretty frustrating when you can sail for so long as we have done for the last four or five hours and still see where we came from,” reported Neal McDonald. “In this game you never accept the race is over until the first boat is across the line but after four or five hours trying to get to the mark, let’s just say we decided we ought to reduce our expectations.

“It was one of the most entertaining, fantastic sails I’ve had for a long time. We had some great sailing across the top of Scotland – sunny, windy with some unusual waves.” Neal recalls, and as far as his preparations go for his fast approaching Volvo Ocean Race as skipper of Ericsson goes, he is sure it has been time well spent:

“I’ll be back to our preparations after a terrific race with lots of ideas, thoughts that I would probably have come to through bitter experience in the end.”

“We are a bit disappointed to miss out,” Brian Thompson concurs. “It was worrying to discover that Sill was just a little bit faster. For me it was very reminiscent of the last race with it all going the same way again, fighting all the way from Great Yarmouth against PRB and Sill.”

As for a second place in a fleet reduced from seven starters last Sunday to just three, Thompson admits: “I am pretty used to that now. It’s the way it goes sometimes. We had Bonduelle right behind us when they dropped out but that is just part of this kind of event when good boats drop out. At the moment I just think we had enough on our plates with Sill!”

Boat captain Graham Tourell (Gringo) says that the mood on board Ecover has remained pretty upbeat: “We are just having a cup of tea at the moment but we do have to watch out for Virbac as well because they came into the mark with breeze this morning. We have just had to sit here like muppets and watch them arriving from the horizon so we will have to keep an eye on them.”

“We are a little bit disappointed,” admits sail designer Laurent Mahy. “But I have had a very nice week with these guys. We have had a good race all the time with some very, very strong conditions, which was great but it has been a good time.”

The race in figures

Start from Calais Sunday 22 May at 1230 GMT

Ecover’s finish in Calais Sunday 29 May at 11h22m25s GMT

Course time 6 days 22 hours 52

Average speed 10.88