Ecover 3 to start two-boat testing

With three months to the start of the Vendee Globe, Mike Golding and Ecover 3 are looking forward to a two-boat testing period with Aviva and Dee Caffari.

After a successful Artemis Challenge Race round the Isle of Wight this week, Mike Golding and the team are beginning a critical period in the development of the boat in the lead up to the Vendee Globe.

These next few weeks of trials and tests are set aside to allow Mike to fast-track some of the learning and optimising work, which would normally take thousands of ocean miles. Having two near perfectly matched boats represents an approach which is commonplace at America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race or even grand prix one design levels – but no IMOCA Open 60 team has really taken this approach yet. Mike Golding and Dee Caffari are hoping the benefits will bring a tangible reward.

Speaking after the Artemis Challenge Mike Golding explained: “One of the things we are very clear on is that we are not looking for the minutiae here, we are looking for the big stuff, the cross-overs, the ballast changes, the things that will make a real difference on the Vendee Globe. The reality is that we are not an America’s Cup programme, we have not got months and months to test nor do we hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds to spend on it to build hundreds of sails and test them, or a team to test them.”

They will concentrate on speed testing and tuning during a series of days off Plymouth. “Day sailing will give us the most benefit,” added Mike. “The objective is not to test Dee’s solo capability up against mine, the objective is testing of configurations and knowing where crossovers occur and stuff like that. So we will achieve more with a crew that is alert and fully functional, so day sailing is the way to go.”

“We have two weeks, which we hope will cover the complete wind range and allow us to try a number of different things in a number of different ways. It is less than we would have liked, but both Dee and I have had to change our keels. With us that has been a major effect on our programme, costing us probably four months, whereas with Dee it has not cost her so much, but the reality is that it has cost her another couple of weeks and that is all time that we could have been two boat testing.”

They are hopeful that a two-week window out of Plymouth will afford a good range of wind conditions: “We would like a complete range of winds, but it is reasonable to say that we don’t need to be testing above 25 knots. I think above 25 knots it is pretty clear what your sail configuration is. Lower down the wind range there is really just about nothing that is too light. If it drops sub six knots it might get marginal because you will probably be on the same configuration, but then it is just a question of maybe testing how much negative keel angle works best, any negative keel angle.”

Reviewing what was learned from this last race around the Isle of Wight, Golding revealed: “We lost the race ourselves rather than were slow. I think Pindar was very quick – they made some good calls. All of us started on genoas and I think that cost us. We were only eight lengths behind Pindar in the Hurst Narrows and if we had been on our Solent we would have done better.”

“I do think the boat is coming together now. We have a boat that is not breaking, which is good. We are opening and closing ballast without seeing the leaks, which is a good thing, everything else seems to be working as it should and when we do break things, it is really small stuff. All the indications are that we moving in the right direction to getting a Vendee boat ready. It is still a struggle, no question.”

“It is not getting easier. Straight answer. This year we are just finding we have new guys on the team and they are coming on great but it can never be fast enough. We need to be ready quickly. And it is just a struggle in that department for everyone. We still have a very big work list, which we are chomping through. We have some good guys and they are learning fast, but the question is if we can bring it all together on time.”