The Solo Racing Festival took place recently at the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, UK. After a welcome from Commodore Mark Inkster, British Offshore legend, Mike Golding spoke the crowd about what inspires him and what the sport needs to to to inspire others.
Golding’s passion for sailing was driven 100% by the people who went before him. His impressions of the sport were born of adventurers like Chay Blyth, Sir Robin Knox Johnston and Chichester. Later there were French sailors like Eric Tabarly who inspired a whole nation to become the best in the world at offshore sailing. These people make the Vendee Globe more than sport.
However, in the UK, despite there being a rather long list of world-class sailors, times are tough and finding the ever increasing budgets to compete in the Vendee Globe is hard.
It’s not just the Vendee Globe. According to Golding, there is a great British Volvo Ocean Race Team, who will sail under the flag of Abu Dhabi due to having to look for money outside of the UK. The raw talent that wins gold medals doesn’t translate into the big sponsorship deals that happen just 60 miles away in France.
Mike Golding says that when he thinks about how he was inspired, he believes that:
Someone has to go out and win races.
Before Eric Tabarly, the French didn’t care so much about the Vendee Globe. Now it is more than sport. The race village, which opens three weeks before the start of the race is crowded with thousands of people who come to see boats, tied to the dock, with or without sailors. Some people say that the crowd is bigger than that of the Tour de France and the EVA is $1.73 billion.
Golding is still motivated to compete in the Vendee Globe and believes he can win it. He says that if he didn’t think he could win, he wouldn’t do it and part of that rationale is that to inspire the next generation (and the sponsors).
The next Vendee Globe starts in November 2012. Golding and others with Vendee aspirations like Sam Davies, Dee Caffari and Steve White have 18 months to raise budgets in the region of £2 million per year for 2 year campaigns. According to Golding, a new Open 60 costs about £3 million, but the cost of the boat is not really a big deal.