Mike Golding has set a new Vendee Globe Southern Ocean time and is now just 113 miles from the leader

Last night at 0031GMT Mike Golding rounded Cape Horn and bid a less than fond farewell to the Southern Ocean. In doing so he set a fastest Southern Ocean time in the Vendee Globe between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn of 31 days 9 hours.

Golding’s record compares to the time of 32 days 12 hours for race leader Jean Le Cam. In comparison the Vendee Globe four years ago saw Golding take 37 days 3 hours Cape to Cape while winner Michel Desjoyeaux managed it in 33 days 19 hours. Golding’s time is only marginally slower than Francis Joyon’s outright solo record of 31 days 5 hours and 51 minutes, set a year ago in a trimaran 50 per cent larger than Golding’s Open 60. “That’s good. She’s no slouch downwind then?” commented Golding.

While Golding is pleased to be out of the wearing conditions of the Southern Ocean – the strong winds and giants seas combined with the incessant nagging worry about hitting ice – he is elated about how much he has closed on Le Cam in the last 24 hours.

Yesterday morning at 0400GMT he was 256.8 miles astern of the race leader. Just 15 hours later he was 89.1 miles behind, the distance having stabilised this morning at 113 miles. “That is a lot better than I had hoped for,” said Golding. “No complaints there at all. I just don’t want to lose it again. There’s bound to be a bit of seesaw in this but it is still well inside the goal. I think [second placed] PRB did a better job of the Horn than I did. I think being that bit earlier he got around.” On hearing the 1000GMT position report he added: “It looks like I am keeping this for the moment – I am not giving it back. That is even more exciting than getting here.”

Golding passed the Horn just before dusk (local time), about two miles off, in near perfect conditions. “Yesterday afternoon it was absolutely glorious. Coming in from the angle we came in at you could see all the mountains from 60 miles away. It was really impressive. To see the Horn so clearly and in sunshine – it was quite something. At the Horn I had a sea breeze from the east, a beautiful clear sky and good visibility. I could see all the way up into Tierra del Fuego. It was a stunning site – like the southern Alps.”

However, since rounding the Horn conditions could not have been more tricky. Ecover was nearly becalmed for two hours, suffering as Le Cam had during the course of yesterday, before the breeze picked up. “It built steadily and I thought ‘this is looking healthy’ and it went on for quite a while until after four or five hours it just suddenly turned off and went down to next to nothing. It has been up and down ever since. I have been downwind and on the wind. An hour ago I had 8 knots of breeze. Now I have 30. It is impossible to keep up with it.”

From clear visibility at the Horn a bank of freezing fog had this morning enveloped Ecover, but with it came 30 knot headwinds.

While Golding is in good spirits the price has been a severe lack of sleep. “I had a good night. Then I had that big night coming into the Horn and I didn’t sleep. Then the Horn itself and the proximity to land and I didn’t sleep and then the calm so I didn’t sleep. And now this. So I am determined to try and get some sleep.”

With Golding’s objective of being within 150 miles of the leader at the Horn achieved so now he can set about exploiting his Open 60’s upwind ability in the Atlantic. “I think it is one thing catching and quite another thing passing. First I have to have the right sails up and be going in the right direction.”

At present the wind direction is upwind, from the north-east. This means Golding will follow Le Cam and second placed Vincent Riou in heading due east and will not pass through the Strait of Le Maire at the end of Tierra del Fuego.

In the history of the Vendee Globe the race leader at Cape Horn has always gone on to win the race but never before has the race been this close after 58 days at sea. Effectively the Atlantic will be a new race for Mike Golding and his steed.