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America’s Cup news, Susie Goodall successfully rescued in the GGR 2018

by David Schmidt 11 Dec 2018 20:00 GMT 11 December 2018
Susie Goodall aboard her DHL Starlight during the Golden Globe Race 2018 © Christophe Favreau / PPL / GGR

As late fall's chill begins to turn serious, and with winter's first day less than two weeks in front of our metaphorical bow here in North America, there are two smart tactical calls that temperature- and daylight-limited sailors can make: Find someplace warm to hoist your sails, or find someplace cold, with steep, powder-clad hills. Right now in Seattle, both of these options seem far removed. Our world-famous weather has been turning things muddy in town, while warmer-than-usual El Nino conditions have delivered this precipitation in the form of useless rain in the mountains (read: no snowpack for wildfire-prevention, first and foremost, or for skiing), and our geographic location makes San Diego or Florida's sunshine feel far removed.

Fortunately, international sailing news is giving Pacific Northwest sailors some mental reprieve until our next weekend regatta - rain, wind and all - or until the snow gets deep enough to trade the rock boards for the powder skis.

The 36th America's Cup isn't slated to unfurl until March 6-21, 2021, but the past two weeks have seen a flurry of activity, given the event's November 30, 2018 drop deadline for entry. As reported last week, eight additional late-hour entries arrived, however seven of these were "conditional entries", meaning that the Defender (the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron) and the Challenger of Record (the Circolo Della Vela Sicilia) would have to agree to modify the Protocol that governs racing to accept these challengers.

While these conditions were not made public, one can assume, based on comments from Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton, that they have more to do with potential challengers attempting to obtain an America's Cup World Series event on their home waters prior to AC36, than they do with more substantial Protocol changes, but this action is all taking place behind closed doors.

One interesting piece of information, however, is that the Defender and Challenger of Record have accepted one of these eight latecomers, namely the challenge from the Royal Malta Yacht Club, an organization whose origins extend back to 1835, thus pre-dating (by 16 years) a certain Royal Yacht Squadron-organized race around the Isle of Wight that was won by the schooner America.

"We are happy to welcome the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Malta Altus Challenge to the 36th America's Cup," said Dalton in an official America's Cup release. "After New Zealand, they are now the smallest country to challenge for the America's Cup. We know what it is like to be a small team facing long odds in taking on one of the biggest challenges in sport and we wish them the best."

While full team details won't become available until Q1 of 2019, there's no question that this announcement was big news in the tiny island nation.

"This is a massive opportunity for our club to promote Malta and the skills that exist in the marine industry on a global stage," said Godwin Zammit, the Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, in an official America's Cup release. "On behalf of the Club, I'd like to thank the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Emirates Team New Zealand for their assistance throughout the challenge process and we can't wait to get down there and start racing in December 2020."

Meanwhile, racecourse drama spiked last Wednesday (December 5) in the Golden Globe Race (GGR 2018) when news broke that skipper Susie Goodall (UK) pitchpoled her heavily-modified Rustler 36 some 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn in heavy seas that knocked the 29-year-old skipper unconscious in the cabin for a time and stripped her deck clean of its rig and the dual spinnaker poles that had been Goodall's Plan B.

Goodall, the sole female skipper in the GGR 2018, which uses period-specific boats (read: full keels and skegs) and equipment (read: no electronic navigation or communications, shy of emergencies) to replicate the challenges of the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race, was sitting in fourth place at the time of her pitchpoling and was contending for a podium finish.

Goodall's proud efforts were sadly dashed when her mast parted ways with her yacht, DHL Starlight, and Goodall then suffered a three-day ordeal that ended safely when she was rescued by the crew of the MV Tian Fu, a 38,000 ton general cargo ship registered in Hong Kong.

On December 6, 2018 at 02:52 hours UTC, Goodall happily texted "ON THE SHIP!!!" along with an image of her successful rescue.

Goodall is expected to reach Punta Arenas, Chile, on Friday (December 14), where she will be met by the British Console John Rees.

As of this writing, race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (FRA), sailing aboard his Rustler 36 Matmut, enjoys a lead of 995 nautical miles over second-placed skipper Mark Slats (NED), who is sailing aboard his Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick; however it's critical to note that Van Den Heede's rig is damaged, allowing Slats to press his boat significantly harder.

Even more telling than the 'distance to go' on the leaderboard is the number of skippers who have either elected to retire or who, like Goodall and Abhilash Tomy (IND), suffered a trouncing at the hands of Mother Nature and were forced to abandon their dreams of finishing this gruelling race. As of this writing, only seven of the race's original eighteen starting skippers are still sailing for the Les Sables d'Olonne, France, finishing line, which translates to a 61 percent (and counting) attrition rate.

True, the boats that are contesting the GGR 2018 might be slow compared to IMOCA 60s or the massive Ultime trimarans, but as Goodall's high-seas drama illustrates, the stakes are just as high, if not higher, in this retro race than they are in the singehanded Vendee Globe or a fully crewed Jules Verne record attempt.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World North American Editor

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