Solo racer Susie Goodall res­cued from deep in the South­ern Ocean


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Golden Globe com­peti­tor Susie Goodall was res­cued from the South­ern Ocean in De­cem­ber af­ter be­ing pitch­poled and dis­masted in her Rustler 36, DHL Starlight.

Goodall was 4th in the round the world sin­gle­handed race, which is raced in ‘retro’ de­signs as a homage to the orig­i­nal Golden Globe race of 1969. She was 2,000 miles west of Cape

Horn when she was hit by 60-knot winds and 7m seas on 5 De­cem­ber.

DHL Starlight’s self-steer­ing wind­vane had bro­ken be­fore the storm hit, in winds of 30-35 knots, so Goodall had hand­steered for a pe­riod. As con­di­tions wors­ened, she re­duced sail and set her se­ries drogue be­fore go­ing down be­low to rest. A short while af­ter­wards, DHL Starlight pitch­poled, fling­ing the solo sailor across the cabin and briefly knock­ing her un­con­scious.

When Goodall re­cov­ered con­scious­ness she found the boat filled with wa­ter, and ini­tially be­lieved she was sink­ing. She ac­ti­vated her EPIRB, and the dis­tress sig­nal was re­ceived by MRCC Falmouth. She also made con­tact with the Golden Globe race team, telling or­gan­iser Don Mcintyre: “The boat is de­stroyed. In­side and out, the boat is de­stroyed. I can’t make a jury rig, my wind­vane is ripped to pieces; the only thing that’s left is the hull. I don’t know if my en­gine works, I have no wind vane and no form of jury rig. My en­tire rig has gone over­board. But the whole hull and deck is in­tact.

“We rolled and I flew across the cabin, and I think I was knocked out for a mo­ment or two be­cause I didn’t quite know what had hap­pened. I got a bit of [a hit to the] head. Right now the wind strength is prob­a­bly about 45 knots, it’s calmed down. When I was dis­masted it was at 60 knots.”

One of DHL Starlight’s spin­naker poles had been lost over­board ear­lier in the race, and when the sec­ond pole was swept away dur­ing the cap­size, Goodall was left with no means of build­ing a jury rig.

She was able to cut the re­main­ing rig­ging away, bail the yacht out and con­trol the wa­ter ingress as the hull and deck of the Rustler 36 were oth­er­wise in­tact. She be­gan to suf­fer se­vere headaches and seasickness from her con­cus­sion and the mo­tion of the dis­masted yacht.

MRCC Chile co-or­di­nated the res­cue ef­fort, con­tact­ing a cargo ship 480 miles south-west of Goodall’s po­si­tion. The 190m MV Tian Fu had been on pas­sage from China to Ar­gentina when it went to her as­sis­tance, and reached Goodall two days af­ter her dis­mast­ing. The mas­ter of Tian Fu de­cided he would not at­tempt to launch a lifeboat from the 40,000-tonne ship. In­stead, the res­cue was planned to re­trieve Goodall by low­er­ing a hook from a crane on Tian Fu’s deck.

Failed at­tempt

The plan was for Goodall to mo­tor along­side

Tian Fu, main­tain­ing a safe dis­tance be­tween her and the ex­tremely high-sided vessel, while a crane boom would be swung out and a lift­ing hook low­ered for Goodall to at­tach her­self to us­ing her climb­ing har­ness. At the time the sea state was around 3-4m, mak­ing this an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous op­er­a­tion.

The first at­tempt failed when DHL Starlight’s en­gine, which had been flooded dur­ing the

pitch­pole, cut out on her ap­proach. While

Goodall hasn’t re­leased de­tails of ex­actly how she achieved it, a sub­se­quent at­tempt was suc­cess­ful, and Goodall se­cured her­self to the lift­ing hook to be winched up to safety.

She sent a mes­sage from Tian Fu – “ON THE SHIP!!!” – at 1544 on 7 De­cem­ber.

Tian Fu ar­rived in Punta Are­nas, south­ern

Chile one week later. On ar­rival Goodall is­sued a state­ment say­ing: ‘Af­ter ar­riv­ing in Punta Are­nas to­day, I’m still a lit­tle wob­bly both emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally as I find my land legs again. I ar­rived with a heavy heart, no longer a com­peti­tor in the Golden Globe Race – but here is cer­tainly a lot bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tive. And I wouldn’t be here to­day with­out the in­cred­i­ble sup­port and sea­man­ship shown by so many peo­ple over the past ten days.’

She thanked those who had been in her cam­paign and sub­se­quent res­cue, be­fore adding: ‘If you asked me if I would I do this again, now know­ing what it’s re­ally like, I would say yes in a heart­beat!

She added: ‘You may ask why?! Some peo­ple just live for ad­ven­ture – it’s hu­man na­ture.

And for me, the sea is where my ad­ven­ture lies. Hav­ing grown up ad­mir­ing Tracy Ed­wards and Ellen Macarthur, I just knew that one day I needed to try to do this too.

‘Ev­ery sea­farer un­der­stands the risks in­volved but that’s what makes us stronger and able to over­come other chal­lenges in life.’

Goodall is the fourth skip­per to be res­cued dur­ing the Golden Globe race, and the fifth to be dis­masted. On 27 Au­gust, Nor­we­gian skip­per Are Wiig was rolled and dis­masted 400 miles south­west of Cape Town, but was able to sail to Cape Town un­der jury rig.

In Septem­ber, Ir­ish skip­per Gre­gor Mcguckin and In­dian Navy Com­man­der Ab­hi­lash Tomy were both rolled and dis­masted dur­ing a storm 1,900 miles south-west of Perth. Mcguckin was able to set a jury rig and sailed to­wards Tomy, who had suf­fered two frac­tures of the tho­racic spine and was im­mo­bilised, be­fore both were res­cued by a fish­eries pa­trol vessel. Dutch sailor Mark Slats, sail­ing in 2nd place, was rolled dur­ing the same storm.

Just five re­main­ing

A month later, French yachts­man Loïc Lepage was res­cued af­ter his Ni­chol­son 32 Mk X Laa­land dis­masted 600 miles south-west of Perth and be­gan tak­ing on wa­ter. Race leader Jean-luc

Van Den Heede has also been pitch­poled in his Rustler 36 Mat­mut, which dam­aged his lower shrouds. Of the 16 skip­pers who started the race in July 2018, just five re­main in the race.

Goodall had at­tracted a large fol­low­ing in the Golden Globe Race. She was the only fe­male skip­per and the youngest en­trant, as well as be­ing one of the few en­tries to have a ti­tle sponsor, DHL.

She built a fan base de­spite the fact part of the Golden Globe con­cept means very lit­tle con­tact with the skip­pers – calls are made from the race of­fice to check their safety, which are pub­lished on the event web­site, but sailors share no blogs or videos.

Even be­fore the start of what was planned to be a nine-month soli­tary voy­age, Goodall was re­luc­tant to speak to the press gath­ered at the start in Les Sables d’olonne – and that hasn’t changed. Her mid-ocean res­cue at­tracted huge media in­ter­est, but she would not di­vulge de­tails, beyond say­ing she was “to­tally gut­ted” by the ex­pe­ri­ence. Goodall has, how­ever, hinted that she hopes to mount an­other cam­paign, post­ing on­line: “That fire in my belly is far from out, so watch this space.”


Susie Goodall’s Rustler 36 as seen from the ship ly­ing dis­masted with rig and sails car­ried away

Left: this se­ries shows Susie Goodall be­ing winched aboard MV Tian Fu (above) from DHL Starlight us­ing one of the ship’s cranes

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