After three months of intense activity culminating in two weeks of round the clock work by the shore crew, Gamesa, Mike Golding's newly modified and branded IMOCA 60 rolled out of the shed at Green Marine in Hythe, UK on Tuesday 13 September. Placed in the water for the first time, this concluded the first stage of the 18 month mission of Golding's to become the first Briton to win the ‘Everest of yacht racing': the Vendée Globe.
Golding was on site, tentatively watching the shore crew as they inched the 60 foot monohull out of the shed and through gates to the river, with just centimetres of leeway either side of the multicoloured hulls. One wrong move and the boat could be back in the shed for repair work.....
"It is emotional seeing her out at last," Golding commented. "We are starting a new story. A new sponsor, new branding and a new technical set up of the boat. It's the start of an exciting journey for us all."
Gamesa has undergone a major modification programme over the past three months which has seen the IMOCA 60 optimised for solo sailing. The final stages of shore-side preparation took place this week with her keel being fitted at Saxon Wharf, before returning to Ocean Village, Southampton, for her new mast, craned into place on Thursday.
Designer, Merfyn Owen talked through the modifications that have been undertaken on the boat, "The brief from Mike was pretty simple: to optimise the boat with one aim only: winning the 2012 Vendée Globe.
"When the boat was first conceived, it was a multi-purpose boat, in-shore and offshore, crewed and solo, but now we have re-configured the boat specifically for solo racing. Changes include removing the second coffee grinder winch system and three winches, the cockpit is smaller, saving weight wherever we can to arrive at a measurement displacement of 8 tonnes overall and at the same time keeping the same amount of power. The changes make the boat harder to sail with a crew, but faster and more efficient for solo sailing."
Technical Project Manager, Joff Brown, explained further, "Mike wants the boat to be super light and super reliable whilst retaining all the power. Yesterday, we fitted the biggest change to the yacht: the new non rotating mast with a classical configuration.To accommodate thisthere has had to be several significant changes on the deck and cockpit of the yacht.
"The new mast, boom and a state of the art carbon fibre rigging package was completed by Future Fibres in Valencia Spain a company with which Mike has had strong technical links since the company was first founded. The mast has been constructed to the very highest specification and with new moulding technology which is quite revolutionary on this scale. It will we hope set a new benchmark of quality for yacht masts of this type.
"I'm really pleased with the cockpit. It looks very good, tidy, neat and most importantly safe," commented Golding. "The steering position is going to be excellent. All that area looks exactly as we would have designed it if we had started from scratch. I think the coachroof is an interesting shape - I've had comments that it looks like a komodo dragon and a crocodile!" Golding laughed.
Next up for the team will be the dedicaton of Gamesa by HRH The Princess Royal, at the PSP Southampton Boat Show on Tuesday 20 September at 4:00pm BST.
"It is an honour to have the boat's Godmother, HRH The Princess Royal, back onboard and I will look forward to showing her around: she won't recognise the boat as it is radically different since her last visit. Her Royal Highness has always been a fantastic supporter of the team and we look forward to welcoming her back," concluded Golding.
In the same week, Golding has announced his continuation of his ten year long partnership with MUSTO, the technical and lifestyle clothing partner to Mike Golding Yacht Racing and the Gamesa Sailing Team.
"Iwill have worked with Musto forten years by the end of the Vendée Globe since I did the Transat Jacques Vabre with Brian Thompson in 2004. There is nothing I would rather wear when heading down into the Southern Ocean. It's the best gear. Period."
"MUSTO is proud to continue supporting Mike's campaigns and it is great to see a competitive British sailor in the IMOCA fleet," commented Nigel Musto."Mike has given us so much valuable product feedback from the ocean passages over the years and this goes into making our gear better year on year," he concluded.
Once Gamesa has left the PSP Southampton Boat Show, she will head to sea for trials and training for Golding and his Transat Jacques Vabre co-skipper, Bruno Dubois, before the start of the race from Le Havre on 30 October 2011.