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British trio bid to conquer Vendee Globe yacht race

LES SABLES D’OLONNE, France (AFP) –

Mike Golding, a former firefighter, is tackling his fourth Vendee, with his best result a third place finish in 2005

English skipper Mike Golding poses aboard his monohull ‘Gamesa,’ on November 5, in Les Sables-d’Olonne, western France, a few days prior to start of the 7th edition of the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world race.

France’s monopoly on the Vendee Globe, the solo non-stop round-the-world yacht race which starts on Saturday, is under serious threat from among others a former fireman and a young mother.

Titouan Lamazou set the Vendee ball rolling for France in the inaugural edition of the gruelling 24,000 mile, three month odyssey in 1990, and French skippers have gone on to claim the next five editions.

But in what looks like a wide-open renewal of the race known as ‘the Everest of the Seas’ the mood is buoyant in the camps of the three British participants, Mike Golding, Samantha Davies, and Alex Thomson.

Golding, the former firefighter, is tackling his fourth Vendee, with his best result a third place finish in 2005.

The three-time former world champion, skippering Gamesa, describes the Vendee as “a strange and special beast”.

Vendee Globe yachting race route and previous winners

Vendee Globe yachting race route and previous winners

“There are so many things to overcome but always there is the element of luck that you need in your favour,” he says.

On his chances of returning to Les Sables d’Olonne next year victorious Golding, who was forced to retire last time, added: “I have started three races and finished third before.

“So the goal this time is at least to finish on the podium.

“Winning is not inconceivable.”

Davies, the only woman in the line-up, excelled on her Vendee Globe debut when she finished fourth behind Michel Desjoyeaux in 2009.

Samantha Davies, the only woman in the line-up, excelled on her Vendee Globe debut when she finished fourth in 2009

British skipper Samantha Davies poses aboard her monohull ‘Saveol,’ on November 6, in Les Sables d’Olonne, western France, a few days before the start of the 7th edition of the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world yacht race.

The 38-year-old mother, at the helm of Saveol, says she has “sea water in my veins” and can’t wait to set off on Saturday.

“It’s just an amazing race and I am really happy to be able to do it for the second time,” she told the race’s official website.

Davies plays down the relevance of being the only woman in a male-dominated contest, explaining: “When you are on the water, there is no difference. There is no category, no division like skiing.”

As for her expectations this time around, the 2009 ‘Yachtsman of the Year’ said: “In terms of performance I’d really like to do better than last time.

“But it’s going to be hard when you see all the competitors I’ll line up against. I think the level gets higher and higher.”

Lotus F1 Team's driver Romain Grosjean (L) and French skipper Louis Burton are seen on the monohull 'Bureau Vallee'

Lotus F1 Team’s French driver Romain Grosjean (L) and French skipper Louis Burton are seen on the monohull ‘Bureau Vallee,’ on November 9, in Les Sables d’Olonne, western France, on the eve of the start of the 7th edition of the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world yacht race.

Golding and Davies are joined by Thomson, who has failed to finish the last two Vendees but is hoping it will be a case of third time lucky.

“I’m feeling confident and, more importantly, I’ve got the miles under my belt like never before,’ he told Wednesday’s Daily Mail newspaper.

Thomson, who lines up on a high after lowering the East to West solo transatlantic record for 60 foot monohulls by over 24 hours in July, held back from making any bold predictions.

“Right now I’ll take finishing the race and returning home to my family. But if I get the chance to go for the win, trust me, you won’t be able to hold me back.

“Over 3,000 people have climbed Everest, more than 500 people have been to outer space.. do you know how many have circumnavigated the world solo, non-stop? Well, it’s 68. That’s all.

‘After the Olympics we’ve had – I was on the hill in Weymouth cheering Ben Ainslie on to gold and with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France – it would be just amazing if a British sailor, and preferably me, won the Vendee.

“If you remember the impact Ellen Macarthur made when she finished runner-up in 2001 and then multiply it by a number of times – that’s what we’re talking about here.

“This is our Everest, our Olympics, our Tour de France, all rolled into one.”

French hopes are pinned on Vincent Riou, successful in 2005, Armel Le Cleac’h, second in the last edition in 2009, and Jean-Pierre Dick, the trained veterinary surgeon competing in his third Vendee.

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