Mike Golding made an official announcement this morning about his new Owen Clarke Open 60 and the continuing sponsorship by Ecover

Mike Golding made an official announcement this morning about his new Owen Clarke Open 60 and the continuing sponsorship by Ecover. Golding, who’s already stacked up a long list of sailing successes including a seventh in the 2000-01 Vendee Globe and finishing a close second overall to Ellen MacArthur in the 2002 Route du Rhumb, will compete in the 2004 Vendee Globe and complete what he believes is ‘unfinished business’.

Currently in build at Southern Ocean Marine in Tauranga, New Zealand, with a completion time of June, this new racing machine is a development of Golding’s previous Open 60 Finot design. It is the culmination of four years of experience utilising the current design rules. “The Finot was exactly the boat we asked for at the time,” said Golding, “the problem was, we didn’t know exactly what to ask for. Now we do. We went to the new designer with a brief of things that were good about the current platform and a brief about the things that were bad about the current platform. The net result is not a revolution but an evolution, an evolution of something we know works.”

Some of the most noticeable developments of this new boat are the twin wheels, as opposed to tiller steering, and the more spacious self-draining cockpit. “The limitations of the current design were a very small cockpit area, which actually made working the boat quite hard with a crew,” added Golding. “Once we made a decision to have bigger cockpit we didn’t want to use up the full length of the cockpit area with a tiller. A wheel, of course, is static, which meant we were able to position winches and controls behind the helmsman. I’ll be able to sit at the helm for many hours without getting half as tired hanging on to the tiller. I’ll also be able to reach all the controls, including the mainsheet and runners, something I can’t do on the current boat.”

While these aesthetic changes will undoubtedly make the boat more ‘comfortable’ to sail, it will be interesting to see what difference the new hull shape, rig and the culmination of fine tweaks has on speed, particularly upwind, and whether she’ll be able to break the current Finot design’s 31-knot top speed.

In the meantime, however, the boat has yet to be finished. According to Merfyn Owen – of the design team – she’s well on schedule, with the deck, hull bulkheads and keel structure already in place. And if all goes to plan, she’ll be launched in June in New Zealand for sail testing. After that, she’ll be loaded on to a ship and should arrive in Europe at the end of August. Golding said: “That will give us plenty of time to complete the final preparation work for the Transat Jacques Vabre before the start of our ongoing programme inside the IMOCA circuit which includes the singlehanded transatlantic race – one of the qualifying events for the Vendee Globe.”