Susie Goodall

SAIL - - Under Sail - By Andy Schell

In 1968-69 Robin Knox-Johnston won the Sun­day Times Golden Globe Race, the world’s first solo, non­stop cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion. In June 2018, 30 sailors will set out to honor that his­toric ac­com­plish­ment, mark- ing its 50th an­niver­sary by also at­tempt­ing to sail 30,000 miles, alone, non­stop, unas­sisted, around the world. They must sail full-keel boats de­signed be­fore 1988 and elec­tronic nav­i­gatiuon is not al­lowed.

At 26, Susie Goodall was the first woman to en­ter this Golden Globe Race 2018 (gold­en­glober­ace.com). She is an ac­com­plished pro­fes­sional sailor, hav­ing logged count­less hours aboard boats of all sizes, and has sailed thou­sands of off­shore miles. SAIL in­ter­viewed her in An­tigua shortly af­ter she’d com­pleted her qual­i­fy­ing pas­sage.

What was your mo­ti­va­tion to con­sider en­ter­ing the Golden Globe?

I had al­ways wanted to sail off around the world by my­self. I think it came from my brother. He was a very am­bi­tious sailor when we were younger, and he was su­per com­pet­i­tive in dinghy rac­ing. His big goal was the VendŽe Globe, the French non­stop around-the-world race. I was this painfully shy child. I heard that peo­ple can sail around the world on their own, and I thought this would be re­ally cool. I found out about the race, signed up and got in.

Why do you want to sail solo?

As a kid, I was al­ways on my own. I never en­joyed crew­ing in races. I got my­self a Laser when I was 11. On a Laser I’m on my own, I’m in charge of the boat. There’s no one to ar­gue with. I think sail­ing solo has made me more so­cial, but I am def­i­nitely in­tro­verted. Be­ing so­cial doesn’t come nat­u­rally to me. It takes ef­fort.

Did you grow up know­ing you wanted to be a pro­fes­sional sailor?

I didn’t re­ally know that you could be a pro­fes­sional sailor when I was in school. In col­lege, they were try­ing to push every­one to go to univer­sity. I was the only one that didn’t go. Then I heard about this wa­ter sports course, and I thought, per­fect. I ended up be­com­ing a sail­ing in­struc­tor for some­thing like five years. Then I learned about the whole su­pery­acht in­dus­try and the sail­ing in­struc­tor world. It just went from there.

When you signed up for the Golden Globe, had you told any­body?

No, I signed up and no one knew about it. I first told peo­ple about a week af­ter I got in. And

then I sent a text to my broth­ers, an email to my dad and then I called my mom. I sat there with my phone in my hand for about an hour, and I thought, how on earth do I phrase this? The first thing my mother says is, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Moms pick up on ev­ery­thing. But she’s amaz­ing. She’s so sup­port­ive. I didn’t ac­tu­ally tell her ev­ery­thing to be­gin with. I said, “I’m do­ing this round-the-world yacht race, and I’ve got a spot on the start line.” I don’t think I said it was non­stop. And I left out the part that it’s with­out GPS. I left out the part that it’s a re­ally small boat as well. And how long it would take. And then slowly, I drip-fed her the rest of the in­for­ma­tion.

What was your first step when you got the news?

I’d never put a cam­paign to­gether. I’d never ap­proached any­one for spon­sor­ship. I hadn’t bought a yacht be­fore. I’d never worked the yacht rac­ing side. The only proper rac­ing I’d done was Laser rac­ing, when I was younger. I ba­si­cally just started talk­ing to peo­ple, find­ing out how to do this sort of thing. First, I bought my web­site. Then I set up so­cial me­dia: Face­book, Instagram and Twit­ter. I then did a lot of re­search into how you ap­proach spon­sors. I’m a sail­ing in­struc­tor — that can’t fund the whole cam­paign.

How did your choose your boat?

I knew I wanted a Rustler 36. I just love the Rustler, it’s such a good boat. They’re solid, and they’re so sea­wor­thy. I had to bor­row a lit­tle bit to buy it, and then I was broke. Once I’d got­ten the boat, I wasn’t even half­way there. It needs a big re­fit to be ready for the race. I couldn’t just quit my job, be­cause that was my only source of fund­ing. So, I’d get up at 0400 and send email af­ter email to po­ten­tial spon­sors, and then go work on the boat.

Was your 2,000 mile qual­i­fy­ing pas­sage from the UK your first long-dis­tance solo voy­age?

Yes, I was quite un­pre­pared for the first pas­sage. I had no spares for any­thing. I ended up break­ing my steer­ing and all sorts of stuff. I learned a lot on that pas­sage.

Did re­al­ity meet your ex­pec­ta­tions of what it would be like to sail solo?

Re­al­ity was ex­actly what I had thought, be­cause I had gone over it so many times in my mind. I had this solid plan of how I was go­ing to do my 2,000-mile loop. Ply­mouth, Eng­land to Muros, Spain was a lovely cross­ing. The English Chan­nel was ex­haust­ing—so much ship­ping. And then the Por­tuguese coast was ex­haust­ing. I didn’t go a cou­ple of hours with­out see­ing a ship com­ing down the Por­tuguese coast. So, I was ex­hausted when I got to Lis­bon. But it was

a good learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and it gave me a lit­tle bit of con­fi­dence in that, ac­tu­ally, I can stay awake for 48 hours if I have to.

Once the race starts, you’re cut off from the rest of the world. How will com­mu­ni­ca­tions be man­aged?

We have HF (high fre­quency) ra­dio and also a sat­phone. But the sat­phone is pro­grammed to speak to race or­ga­niz­ers and the med­i­cal team only, so you can’t call home. We’ll have a weekly check-in via HF, and the sat­phone with race or­ga­niz­ers. We’ve got to keep a sat­phone on the whole time, but not the HF.

What are the ages and back­grounds of the com­peti­tors?

Every­one has a com­pletely dif­fer­ent back­ground. Some are very ex­pe­ri­enced ocean rac­ers, and have done the Vendée Globe. Oth­ers are sail­ing in­struc­tors like my­self. A com­plete mix. And the same with ages, there are three of us that are 27. The rest range from their thir­ties to their seven­ties.

Have you thought about how to deal with fear while sail­ing solo?

Def­i­nitely. There is a real fear of be­ing dis­masted, hit­ting things like ship­ping con­tain­ers or an ice­berg, those sorts of things. There are go­ing to be times that are just scary. When it comes to the race, you hear all these hor­ror sto­ries of the South­ern Ocean. Re­cently, one of my com­peti­tors was sail­ing from Aus­tralia to the UK. He was dis­masted 300 miles west of the Horn, and had to aban­don his boat. He was picked up by a pass­ing tanker. When his mast broke, his life raft was on the coachroof and was dam­aged. I was plan­ning on keep­ing my life raft on the coachroof. Now I’m a lit­tle hes­i­tant about it.

The race starts in June 2018. What’s on your check­list?

There’s quite a few things I want to change, like my com­pan­ion­way hatch. If I flipped over, then it’s just no good. I’m go­ing to have that like a sub­ma­rine hatch. Also on the re­fit list is a new mast, re­in­forced chain plates, re­plac­ing a lot of the deck fit­tings, new winches and adding more winches. And a solid cuddy: the deck’s leak­ing a lit­tle bit as well.

What do you want to rec­om­mend to fel­low sailors?

If you want to do some­thing, just go and do it. When I first signed up for the race, hav­ing no plan, every­one was like, “Well, you’re just go­ing for it. Just do it.” It’s one of the best things that I’ve ever been told, even though we hear it all the time. If I think about how big the race is, it’s a bit daunt­ing. So, I’ve bro­ken the race up into sec­tions. It’s the only way I will get through it. Get past the Ca­naries, and that’s a cel­e­bra­tion. It’s a huge thing, but just bro­ken up into tiny lit­tle chunks for me. How do you race around the world? One mile at a time. s

Susie Goodall in her el­e­ment

Metic­u­lous boat prepa­ra­tion is es­sen­tial

A young Susie gets a feel for the tiller

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