Andrea Golding : "Mike is very strategic"
When did Mike tell you he was going to compete in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe and how did that make you feel?
We didn’t really have a discussion about it, to be honest. It didn’t come as a shock, I knew it was going to happen. After the 2008 edition (editor’s note: Golding had to retire when he was leading), Mike’s reaction at that stage was: “I have to do it again” and after that, of course, there was the most difficult part: Taking that dream to fruition. As far as my reaction is concerned, it’s always mixed feelings. The first time, he said he was only going to do it once, so it was ok, one sounds good. And then next time he did it again, and then again, and then again! So I had to get used to that.
What about now, with only three weeks to go before the start?
The focus and excitement it is starting to generate now that it is just around the corner is really lovely to feel, it is great for us to see so many people getting behind Mike. But you can feel the tension too. For a while now we’ve been waking up in the middle of the night. But not last night. As Mike was on the boat, I was able to get a good night of sleep, which felt really good in the morning! At this stage, we have exciting things going on with the end of the preparation, and then of course there’s worry, too. But whatever I may be feeling, I tend not to share that with Mike too much because now it’s just about supporting him emotionally, where he is right now.
If you had to describe Mike in a few words, what would you say?
He’s a very determined and very focused person. He knows exactly what he wants to achieve. And those two words, determined and focused, also apply to Mike as a sailor. Even the tiniest details are very important to him, which can be quite irritating to other people around him. They will think something is ready and he will find something and go: “No, I’m not quite done yet”. On a boat, he’s always looking for the detail that will make a difference and he’s very strategic, always looking at where the other competitors are. Every time something happens, he will think about the possible consequence and impact, like in a game of chess.
Would you say Mike’s Vendée Globe will be more about pleasure or about competition?
I don’t know about pleasure, I’m not sure it’s a very pleasurable experience at all! But it’s definitely the competition as he loves to be out there, on the boat, having that competition against the other sailors. Mike could never sail just for the pleasure, not even at home with his family. He will have an ambition to go from X to Y and he’ll have a real plan for that.
From what you saw, has anything changed in his preparation compared to 2008?
The focus has been the same, it’s a lot about learning from previous experiences. Of course he had to look at himself and, as he’s four years older now, see what it means for him and what he has to do to take care of himself physically and physiologically. But also mentally, so he had to think about what to do in his down time in terms of sleep and time out. Mike always takes his time when tackling decisions or challenges, it’s quite often a very slow decision-making process. So he’s not always doing what you think he’s doing, like watching TV for example. Instead, he’s into his thoughts, processing things, and he eventually comes up with a decision and verbalise it months down the line.
What is your daily life going to be like once the Vendée Globe has started?
My days will actually be pretty much the same but everything will be more focused on the race, the updates, the information that is coming from the boat. I will be asking myself questions all the time: What is happening on board, where is Mike, what is he doing, thinking or feeling… Of course that will be central but then life will go on as usual. I’ll get up, take Soren (editor’s note: their 9-year-old son) to school, get to work… That routine is very important to him.
Have you and Soren prepared a gift pack for Mike, to take with him on board?
Of course, but we haven’t finished that yet, with half-term coming. We’ve already started to think about little things like poems Soren has started to write in his head or presents we can buy or make. We’ll put all that together in a box.
How are you going to communicate with Mike during the race?
From Soren, Mike will get mostly emails and they’ll stay in touch every day. We tend not to ring Mike because we don’t want to interrupt or disturb him at a bad time. We let him ring us instead, and sometimes, he calls in the middle of the night but that’s fine, of course.
Mike’s participation in the Vendée Globe will definitely have a huge impact on your family, right?
Yes, absolutely, things will be very different once the race has started and Mike is not around anymore. We’ve already started to feel it, especially Soren, he’s seen his dad take the boat, come back and then be gone again… Of course this time he will be gone for quite a while, but Soren is prepared. And his school is actually very much behind Mike, they will be tracking Mike daily and talking about topics related to Mike and the race. So Soren will be part of something that is actually very exciting for the other children too, something very special that is going on and that has to do with his dad. So to him, Mike being away will not be the end of it.
His dad is a superstar. Is he aware of that?
He doesn’t see his daddy like that at all, actually. His friends see Mike as a James Bond figure and when he visited them at school, they went home and told their parents: “We had James Bond come to the school today and tell us all about sailing around the world”. But to Soren, he’s not a hero. Other children will tell him: “Your dad is awesome!” and he’ll go: “Oh well, you know, he’s just my dad.”
Once the race has started, things will probably be difficult and stressful for you…
Yes, I know there will be difficult moments. I know Mike will be facing awful condition at times and I’ll be waking up in the middle of the night, hearing the rain and the wind, and it will make me think about him and what he’s dealing with. I hate that, I really do, because you worry but there’s really nothing you can do. And what if something breaks or he’s having a major issue? Do you want him to try different things, find a solution and overcome the problem or do you want him to take the safe option, get out of that situation and call it a day? The balance is always tricky between pushing him one way or the other. It’s an agonising dilemna, because I want him to do as well as he can possibly do in that race. I want to help him make the right decision, and sometimes it means asking him when he last ate or got some good rest and reminding him in a polite way that he needs to eat or take a nap before solving some of his problems. And sometimes I’m not that polite but he respects that because he knows that ultimately, it’s good.
Will you be at the start in Les Sables d’Olonne?
Yes I will. I hate the start but I will be there. There are so many boats in such a small area, I’m always worried something awful will happen right on that start line. But we’ll be there!