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Susie Goodall: Old School Around the World

Susie Goodall: Old School Around the World

An update from rookie British solo sailor Susie Goodall, the only female entrant in the retro-round-the-world Golden Globe Race, on preparing herself and her vintage Rustler 36 for the start in Falmouth, UK in the summer of 2018.

The Golden Globe Race is a non-stop around the world yacht race for solo sailors. The first edition took place in 1968 and was sponsored by the Sunday Times newspaper. At that point a non-stop circumnavigation had never been attempted so it was unknown whether it was in fact humanly possible to sail singlehanded around the globe without stopping. 

Competitors could choose when to leave between 1 June and 31 October that year and the first one to cross the finish line without stopping or outside assistance would be the winner. 

Of the nine skippers who set out, only one finished – Britain’s Robin Knox-Johnston. 

Fifty years on, the 2018 Golden Globe Race will be a celebration of what is regarded by sailing purists as the sailing’s ‘golden age’. In that spirit the circumnavigation will be done entirely by traditional means. GPS cannot be used, no iPhones, no mod-cons - just solo sailing with a sextant and charts.

Starting from Falmouth in June 2018, with a maximum of 30 entrants, the race will take roughly 300 days to complete.

In keeping with the ethos of the original race the boats will be borderline classic. Rather than the 60-foot multimillion dollar machines of today, the fleet will be made up of 32 to 36-foot designs from yesteryear utilising only the technology of the time. All boats approved for the race must be and be long-keeled with rudders attached to the trailing edge.

I have managed to secure myself a boat for the race, a Rustler 36 called Ariadne. She is one of the longest overall lengths approved for the race and I had one of those ‘movie moments’ when I saw her. I knew in an instant that this was the boat for me. 

I will take on the race totally alone. I don’t have a shore team that I can call up for help, so any issues are mine to deal with. Anyway, I will be so far from land most of the time, my nearest option for outside help will undoubtedly be another competitor in the race.

A significant difference between this race and the original back in ’68 is the level of safety equipment we will carry. I will have a good quality high frequency radio, a satellite phone, an EPIRB and an Echomax radar reflector. However, the sat phone is for safety only - so no option of calling home whenever I get lonely and fancy a chat. Instead, I can chat with myself while I wonder what the rest of the world is doing back ashore. 

I will also take an emergency only GPS - but if I use that then I’m out of the winnings.

I started sailing when I was three years old. I don’t remember it from that age but it has always been a huge part of my life growing up. Every holiday was on a boat somewhere, usually hopping across the channel and weekends I would spend racing my Laser dinghy at the local sailing club. 

I have always been a bit of a daydreamer, so the club lake was the Atlantic and the English Channel was the Pacific. Unfortunately for me it seems neither were quite big enough. 

The moment I heard about a re-run of the Golden Globe from a member of crew at the sail training/expedition company I work for - I knew I had to do it. However, I didn’t apply straight away as I didn’t have a boat or any way of getting to the start line. In fact, it wasn’t until late July last year that I got accepted as an entrant. I was super excited by this but very nervous, mainly because I that meant I had to tell my mother that I was going to sail around the world in a little boat and she wouldn’t see or hear from me for about 10 months. 

When I bit the bullet and made the call her first words were ‘What’s wrong?’. As I cautiously explained about the race and that I was actually going to do it, there was no surprise – turns out she knew something like this would happen one day. Actually, I didn’t give her all the information on the race straight away - I left out the size of the boat and the fact there’s no GPS - and I slowly drip fed the rest of the information. 

My whole family is incredibly supportive - especially my parents, who are sailors themselves and so completely understand my desire to do this race. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to have the support that I do from friends and family; without them it would be so much harder.

Most folk that I talk to about the race give me a very confused look and then ask an incredulous ‘why?’. Good question, I think to myself. It’s a question I am getting better at answering, but I still haven’t been able to make anyone really understand why I want to go off around the world by myself and not see anything or anyone. 

I think the appeal is that the challenges, both mental and physical, the isolation, the extremes of weather that will be faced, all have to be dealt with alone.

Every obstacle, whether it’s cooking dinner at a steep angle or changing the headsail in 50 knots of breeze, is totally down to you to cope with. Everything is your decision, your choice of how you are going to get through it, there’s no one to blame but yourself. 

For me, it’s also about making a dream into a reality.

I chose a boat at the larger end of the scale mainly because of the length of time I will be living aboard without stopping, plus it means I can take more food and clothes than on a smaller boat. My biggest fear is running out of food during the race so more space means less chance of that potentially fatal disaster happening. 

From a sailing point of view Ariadne has a waterline length of 27-feet, so in flat water she wouldn’t necessarily be the fastest. In reality I think the large overhang bow and stern will be very welcome down in the Southern Ocean.

I’m under no illusion of how hard the race will be. Preparing myself physically and getting the boat ready are the easy jobs. It’s when it comes to the mental side of it that I’m at a bit of a loss. How on earth do you prepare to be on your own for 10 months and facing some of the harshest weather on the planet?

The race starts from Falmouth, UK on 16 June 2018 and the route takes us east around the World. First down the Atlantic, leaving the Canary Islands and Cape Verdes to starboard, then rounding Cape of Good Hope and on towards southern Australia and into Storm Bay in Tasmania. That’s where under race rules we are required to stop, not to tie up but enter the bay and pause the boat to meet with race organizers. We won’t be able to have anyone come onboard or receive anything but we must each wait for a total of 90 minutes before continuing on to Cape Horn and then back up the Atlantic on the homeward leg.

Given that that this is a race, I expect to spend a great deal of time trimming and making sail changes to get the fastest speeds out of Ariadne. I’m allowed 11 sails for the race and I aim to make sail trim a part of my half hourly routine, along with chafe management which is always a major enemy of the ocean sailor. 

Although there is still a long time before the start, my strategy planning for the race has already begun. I have been thinking about weather routing using the prevailing winds, ocean currents and identifying the key milestones I can knock off along the route. 

Just so you know, I am not doing this simply to take part – I’m aiming to win. It must be my father’s worst nightmare, having his daughter chased around the world by 29 men! 

Getting Ariadne to the start line is a major mission and the job list seems like it’s endless. The biggest task that I have to do before the start is to fit a collision bulkhead up forward. I am possibly going to fit a second one aft, but it won’t be a full sized one. 

There are a lot of smaller jobs too, like setting Ariadne up for solo sailing and making sure everything on board is watertight and well secured or at least can be easily and quickly secured when needed.

Aside from all the boat jobs, I also have to work out the logistics of the voyage. Like, where is 10 months’ worth of food all going to go? I think I might have to get an extra thick mattress so I can sleep on top of all the tinned tomatoes. Choosing what food to take is another area that needs a lot of attention. As much as I love beans on toast, I don’t think I still will if I have that every day for 10 months. 

I love to bake at sea although I’m useless at it and get genuinely surprised if what comes out of the oven is even edible. If I keep at the baking, then I may be half decent by the time I return. If nothing else, it fills the boat with a delicious smell that never fails to lift my spirits.

I have less than two years to get myself and Ariadne to the start. It’s going to be a mammoth job but I have been getting help in every possible way from people working on my boat, to others donating charts and publications, logs, sextants, anything that they think I will need to do the race. 

I’m like a donations charity boat where folk hand over all their unwanted sailing goods – but it’s all stuff I can use on the race. I’m even accumulating a large cassette tape collection as no iPods or CDs are allowed. 

With so much support from everyone and plenty of grit and determination from me I’m confident that Ariadne and I will make it to the start line in good shape to begin our round the world adventure together. 

Find out more about Susie at her campaign website HERE

More on the Golden Globe Race HERE

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