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Interview with Seldén sponsored Susie Goodall: The only female participant in the Golden Globe Race

by Susannah Hart, Seldén Mast 9 Jan 09:30 GMT
Susie Goodall © Susannah Hart

2018 heralds the 50th anniversary of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's historic non-stop solo circumnavigation on his 32-foot yacht Suhaili. 2018 also sees the start of the Golden Globe Race to celebrate Knox-Johnsons' epic adventure. On the 1st July, 30 intrepid sailors will leave Les Sables d'Olonne, France to complete a 30,000-mile voyage, nonstop, alone and without outside assistance.

Susie Goodall, aged 28, is not only the joint youngest skipper in the race she is also the only female following the withdrawal of Brazilian Izabel Pimentel.

Susannah Hart caught up with Susie, who is sponsored by DHL and Seldén Mast, to find out more about this courageous young woman, what attracted her to the race and the challenges she faces.

You have been sailing with your family since you were a child but what is it that attracts you to sailing now?

I think it is that it is just so simple. You go out on the ocean and all you do is sail, life is just simple and straightforward. It's very in the moment.

Did you have a sailing hero or heroine when you were growing up that encouraged you to continue sailing?

I always admired Ellen McArthur. I was 12 or 13 I think when she came back after the Vendée Globe. She was so inspiring to me as there was this tiny woman who had just done this incredible thing. I just followed everything she did, so she was really my sailing hero.

What was it about the Golden Globe Race that attracted you as opposed to something like the Vendée Globe?

Well, I think I could relate to the Golden Globe because they are boats that I grew up sailing and I thought 'I know those boats, I'll just get one and off I go!'. You look at things like the Vendée Globe and it's probably like someone who drives a Skoda looking at a Formula One car – my boat's a Skoda and I've never driven a formula one car! I think I could just sort of picture [the Golden Globe] easily.

You are at an age where GPS and modern sailing technology has been around all your sailing life. How have you got used to the idea of not having this and coping with this challenge?

The way I grew up sailing, the boats I used to sail didn't have great technology so it was always paper chart and that sort of thing. Even in the last five to ten years it has not been ultra modern kit that I've been using and if I have tried to use it I am just totally lost, I'm not one for technology, I struggle with an iPhone.

So the lack of technology is less of a challenge than it could be?

From that point of view it would be more of a challenge if I had all the latest technology as I can't even turn the stuff on! So that was part of the appeal as well, it's simple.

How have your family reacted to your entry to the race? Was it difficult to tell them of your plans?

Dad's super supportive. He's the sailor. He will ring me up and say "Have you thought of this, what about this or that?" My Mum's the same, super supportive but it was hardest to tell my Mum because I am the only girl in the family. She wasn't so surprised but I didn't tell her everything at first though. I called her up and said I had been accepted into this race around the world. She was like "Oh right, OK". I told her when it was, but I didn't say it was non-stop and then slowly I drip fed the rest of the information so it wasn't such a shock.

What preparations are you doing apart from refitting the boat?

So training for it, when I got the boat I did a loop of the Atlantic to get to know the boat. Fitness wise the easiest way is to sail but with the boat out the water it is hours in the gym to be as fit as possible before the start. There are ways of keeping fit on the boat but it is never as good. Yoga is one of the best things.

For strength or for mental preparation?

For avoiding injury. If I do lots of yoga then I can do loads of weight stuff and not get injured so I am trying to bring that onto the boat to use throughout the race. It is one of my biggest fears, getting injured on the boat.

What do you see as the greatest challenge of the Golden Globe Race for you?

I think probably the mental side of it, as it's nine months alone.

What are you planning on doing to cope with the isolation?

Meditation and yoga are great for it, but I have seen a mental coach. She works with the rugby Seven's boys. This isn't something that she normally does. She is a trained psychologist but focuses on the mental side of [competitive] sport.

We have basically gone through how the brain works, ways of coping under pressure and different mental techniques, tactics if you like, which has been super super helpful.

What are you taking that isn't entirely necessary to take sailing around the world with you?

A bottle of whisky!

Some people might class that as a necessity!?

Well, a bottle of whisky and a bottle of rum as well. One of the best things on a cold day is hot buttered rum. It is just the most amazing thing.

What are your milestones on the trip?

The Equator both ways, the Cape of Good Hope, the half way point and Cape Horn.

That's quite a few milestones! How are you planning to celebrate them?

Miniature bottles of champagne! They are not entirely necessary but then I have got to celebrate Christmas and New Year as well.

Is it important to you to still celebrate the holidays?

It's not that it's that important, I will probably get quite sad at Christmas as I know all my family will be together and I am not there. It is more of a food thing to have a treat every now and then, a really nice meal for Christmas that I don't have every day –something to look forward to.

How have your sponsors, DHL and Selden Mast, made a difference to you being able to participate in the race?

I wouldn't be able to do this if it wasn't for the sponsors. I wouldn't have been able to participate.

Did you have them onboard prior to buying your boat?

No, that was a total gamble.

How did you approach the sponsors?

It was a bit bizarre how DHL happened because I had approached so many companies and everyone was no, no, no. It was either too dangerous or not enough return with exposure or sponsorship branding on the boat because the race rules are very strict. But then, though several people I was introduced to, I was given the email of the top man at DHL and I sent him an email and he responded and that was kind of that!

With regards your other sponsor Seldén Mast, apart from the provision of the mast the team has given you help and technical advice – how useful has this been?

That has been the best bit about having Seldén as a sponsor. There is a load of stuff that I don't have experience with and the advice I have got from Seldén has been priceless really. Seldén know what I am doing and just having that extra backing, having a company that just believes in your project and what you are doing is just amazing. But the advice that I have had is just the best.

Has the change of starting port from Falmouth to Les Sables caused any issues for you?

I was really upset that it moved. I thought to have that real tie in they should start from Falmouth, that's where Sir Robin left from. Moving countries so close to the start, I was quite upset about it especially as I had got my family all booked up.

Do you see the move as positive or negative for the race?

I wouldn't have said this 2 weeks ago but I was in Les Sables last week because we had a race conference. If I hadn't done that then I would have said it's a bad move for the race. But having met quite a lot of people down there, I can see why it has moved. The support for it is enormous. But I wouldn't have said that before I went there, definitely not.

This is a life-altering event. What do you think you will do when you get back – how will you come back to normal?

I have a couple of things that I am set on doing but I know what's going to happen - I'll come back and have 'post adventure blues'. You go from this thing where you have worked, by that point for 4 years, to going 'oh it's over'. I think I am going to feel really bummed out when I finish. There are lots of ideas what to do after but I don't want to commit to anything, as it's such a long time away.

If you would like to meet Susie Goodall she will be appearing with her yacht DHL Starlight at the London Boat Show at Excel from 10th - 14th January 2018 or to find out more visit www.susiegoodall.co.uk