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A classic race with a modern twist: We speak to Susie Goodall ahead of the Golden Globe Race

by Mark Jardine 30 Jan 12:00 GMT
Mark Jardine interviews Zhik-sponsored Susie Goodall at the London Boat Show 2018 © Liz Rushall

Zhik-sponsored sailor Susie Goodall is one of 30 sailors set to take part in the Golden Globe Race 2018, which starts in Les Sables D'Olonne, France, on 1st July. The 30,000 mile, non-stop, single-handed race celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original Golden Globe Race. We spoke to Susie at the London Boat Show to find out why she initially wanted to take part.

Mark Jardine: With the race start so close now, what are you feeling like?

Susie Goodall: It's a little bit strange as for the last few years I've been referring to the race as, "in 2018", then "two years time", then "next year" and now, all of a sudden, it's this year and has become very real with just six months to go. It's full-on and surreal at the minute.

Mark: What was it about the race which caught your attention and made you think, "Yes, that's the one I want to do"?

Susie: When I first heard about it I thought "Why not?" I'd always wanted to sail around the world by myself and never really knew exactly which angle to go down. When I heard about the re-creation, having read all about the original 1968 race, that was that, and here we are!

Mark: You've been on boats all your life. What is it about the sport of sailing that you love so much?

Susie: Someone once said to me that for a landlubber the ocean is what separates the land, whereas for a sailor it's what connects the lands. It's that connection which draws me and I believe the oceans are meant to be sailed around, otherwise they wouldn't be designed in the way they are. I also love being in the ocean, it's as close to nature as I can get.

Mark: The Golden Globe Race itself really is bringing ocean racing back to its roots, but we're 50 years on from when Sir Robin Knox-Johnston completed his voyage in 312 days. How does it feel to be involved in a race which goes back to those original concepts?

Susie: It's amazing to be involved. If I was around then I'm sure I would have tried to take part in the original race, and to be involved in this celebration of the grandfather of all yacht races is incredible. There's a wonderful spirit around the Golden Globe Race as the Vendee Globe, the BOC and many more all came off the back of the original race. To celebrate this in a modern way is fantastic and to be part of it is very special.

Mark: You're working with your partner Zhik on the clothing front. Can you imagine what it would have been like take to the oceans in 1960's sailing clothing, compared to what you're going to be wearing in this race?

Susie: No, I can't imagine it at all! I'm warm and dry when I'm out there, so if I was wearing what Sir Robin wore in 1968 it would have been so much harder. We're 50 years on with 50 years of knowledge and technology, so it's a traditional race, but technical clothing has moved on so much since then. I go sailing and can be in the worst weather, but I go down below and I'm dry underneath and warm. It's an old-school race, but I'm very glad to have the modern Zhik technology. Being dry and warm means being happy.

Mark: Zhik have always had a reputation for working with their sponsored sailors and making sure the clothing is continually developed according to their needs. Have you had experience of that with their design team, or is it something that is yet to come?

Susie: It's yet to come. It's when I come back from the Southern Ocean that I'll give them my feedback and I'll have a lot more experience of their ocean-going wear, just as the sailors in the Volvo Ocean Race are doing now.

Mark: You've chosen a Rustler 36 for the race. What did you think it was about the yacht which made it so suitable?

Susie: I wanted to go for a boat which was at the bigger end of the scale – the allowed range is 32 to 36 feet – because of the length of time I'll be at sea and the amount of supplies I have to take with me. I'm going to struggle to fit it all in, so the bigger the boat, the better. It's not necessarily the fastest, but to me it feels the most solid, the most seaworthy and the most sturdy. Having done a lot of miles in her, I have every confidence I have chosen the right boat. Also, I wanted to go for a sloop, just due to personal preference, and it has a large overhang which I'm sure will be beneficial down in the South; it's a good all-rounder and I'm 100% sure I've chosen the right boat.

Mark: You mentioned you have to take everything with you for the race and you're going to be out at sea for a long time. How much self-sufficiency do you need, such as fishing and collecting rainwater?

Susie: I have to do everything; I have to fix anything that breaks, I have to catch all my rainwater and I can only take 250 litres in my tank. I have a water-catcher system on my dodger so I can catch rainwater fairly easily, but all the food has to come with me. If I take anything on-board after the start then I'm out of the race. I'll try fishing, but it's not something I'm going to rely on as my fishing skills aren't that good, but I'll certainly give it a go.

Mark: While you're clearly looking forward to the race, what is your biggest apprehension about it?

Susie: That first week. Having seen all my nearest and dearest with a lot of tears and hugs, I'll be on my own, and it's going to be overcoming that. I'm looking forward to the start, but I'll want that first week over, so I can get into the routine of things.

Mark: Les Sables d'Olonne is famous for having huge crowds turn up for the Vendee Globe start. Do you think the same thing will happen for the Golden Globe Race?

Susie: Having been down there a month ago, and seeing just how excited everyone is about the race and the spirit of it, it wouldn't surprise me if the crowds aren't just as big as the Vendee. When I first heard about the move from Plymouth I was surprised, but having met everyone I can see that they celebrate a little bit of madness, which is wonderful! I think it's a very good move to go down there.

Mark: With the French association with offshore sailing, I think it is the perfect venue, and it really is a race that is capturing everyone's imagination. We're really looking forward to following your progress closely. Thank you very much for your time.

Susie: Thank you, it's a pleasure!

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