Golding and Caffari in Vendee Globe trials

British sailing legend Mike Golding and record-breaking yachtswoman Dee Caffari start two-boat testing in a bid to challenge the French dominance of solo ocean racing

Two of Britain’s most famous solo skippers, Mike Golding and Dee Caffari, move into the next stage of their ground breaking technical alliance to develop the fastest Open 60 possible ahead of this year’s gruelling solo round the world yacht race, the Vendée Globe 2008/09. Caffari and Golding, who between them have circumnavigated the global on eight different occasions, have developed an intensive testing programme to find a competitive advantage over the 30-strong Vendée Globe fleet and in particular the impressive French contingent.

The two skippers announced the technical alliance, the first of its kind between British Open 60 teams, in March 2007. The alliance led to the construction of two identical sister-ships in Aviva and ECOVER 3 and this summer Caffari and Golding will be testing the two boats against each other to maximise performance.

The Aviva Ocean Racing and Ecover teams are taking a leaf out of Formula 1’s book and believe in the merits of testing against similar machines. The upcoming period of two-boat testing will set the two Open 60s against each other much like the way F1 teams do with their two cars. One of the boats will be set as a control whilst the other makes changes to the sail trim, ballast and keel angle to determine the most effective set up. The ultimate aim is to find the optimum performance that will give the skippers an edge to challenge the French dominance of the Vendée Globe race, to date each of the five editions has been won by a French skipper.

The testing, taking place in Plymouth later this August, was postponed earlier this year due to several full penetration cracks in ECOVER 3’s keel blade as well as other significant keel blade defects. As a result Golding replaced his keel in April and Caffari is planning a new keel to be fitted in the second week of August. Whilst the Aviva Ocean Racing team have not experienced any problems with the current keel, the team decided to fit the new keel as a precautionary measure ahead of the demanding round the world voyage. Ecover Logo©

Mike Golding, Britain’s most successful solo sailor, is looking to better his third position in the 2004/05 edition of the Vendée Globe and be the first Britain to win the race, he commented:

“This Vendée Globe is going to be the most competitive yet and with 30 boats aiming to be in the race ECOVER 3 has to be as competitive as possible. The technical alliance with Dee and the Aviva team mean that we are going to be in a strong position when we get to the start line. We suffered a set back in April but having replaced the keel I’m now feeling confident we’ll be able to get the most out of our time together in Plymouth. It’s not long to go till the start so every day on the water counts.”

Caffari supported by her sponsors Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group since her record breaking voyage around the world against the prevailing winds and currents in 2006, added:

“The technical alliance has meant I’m able to line up in Les Sables d’Olonne with more confidence in how to get the most out of a new generation boat. We’re investing the time to test the two-boats against each other to maximise Aviva’s potential. This is my first Vendée Globe so working with Mike is exciting. That said neither of us are strangers to the Southern Ocean so I’ll be looking forward to racing him once we get started.”

The relationship between the skippers goes back nine years when Golding gave Caffari her first job in professional sailing. Now the technical alliance brings them together again, but on the 9th November they will be competing against each other and making the most of their technical preparations to compete against the rest of the Vendée Globe fleet.