HAMPSHIRE’s round the world sailors have taken a pummelling as they enter the Southern Ocean, facing violent seas and strong winds in the Vendée Globe race.

Veteran solo sailor Mike Golding described the conditions as “horrid”

as he charged past South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, the first major milestone in the 24,000-mile non stop race around the planet.

“The boat has, and still is, taking a serious pounding in these conditions,”

Golding reported from his 60ft yacht Ecover.

“Everything, including me, has taken real punishment. This is a true Cape of Good Hope experience, and there is no escaping from it.

“We have seen real boat-breaking conditions. It is a reminder that you cannot afford to push too hard.”

Golding was last night in sixth place, trailing French leader Armel Le Cleac’h by more than 560 miles.

However the Warsash yachtsman said he was confident of his position after nearly a month at sea.

“I am feeling pretty good to be honest,” he added.

“I feel the boat is in good shape and I am in good shape, and I’m starting to feel we are making good progress around the course.

“I’d like the gap to the leaders to have been smaller but as long as we can stay in the same weather system as them, I’m happy.”

Around 400 miles ahead of Golding was fellow Hampshire racer Alex Thomson in fifth place.

“It is a very stressful environment onboard and although I am happy the speed is up I will be happy when things will calm down a little,” the Gosport sailor said.

Twenty of the world’s best solo sailors left Les Sables d’Olonne in France on November 10 but that number has already dropped to just 13 due to a series of boat breakages.

Hampshire’s Sam Davies, the only woman in the race, was forced to retire after a week of racing with a broken mast. The course, which takes the skippers down through the Atlantic, round the bottom of South Africa and South America then back up through the Atlantic, is expected to take another