Rose & Willard is honoured to have Susie Goodall as a brand ambassador. She embodies our Feminine & Bold ethos.
Susie Goodall started sailing when she was three years old. In 2018 she will embark on the Golden Globe Race - a celebration of Sir Robin Knox-Johnson's historic 1968/69 solo, round-the-world, non-stop boat race. Out of 9 entrants, he was the only one to complete the race. For the 2018 race, Susie is one of two women competing in a group of thirty (from 14 different countries), all of whom will be limited to sailing in similar yachts and using equipment available during the 1968/69 race; so without modern technology or the benefit of satellite navigation aids.
We interviewed Susie to find out more about what drives her in her pursuit of her ambitions.
- How did you become a sailor and how has sailing become your career?
I started sailing because of my parents; they would take me and my brothers out on yachts from when we were very young. I just loved it and knew that that was all I wanted to do when I left school. So made a career out of it.
- Would you consider yourself a modern-day pioneer?
I hadn’t really thought about it but I suppose I am doing something that hasn't been done - discovering the 1968 style of sailing. Pioneering with a twist.
- Which other female pioneers do you find inspiring?
Goodness there are so many incredible women that have paved the way for what we have today. I think back to when Tracey Edwards put together an all-female crew to race around the world and how much criticism even the suggestion garnered. So many thought it impossible women to achieve. But Tracey did it and proved that it could be done. That opened the door for others like me.
- What’s the most challenging or fearful situation you’ve faced at sea and how did you deal with it?
Going through a gale or storm is quite often a challenge. But the hardest part is waiting for the bad weather to hit rather than the weather itself because you simply deal with it. Anticipating the arrival is more stressful, I find.
A couple of years ago, when we were sailing to Greenland, we hit some pretty rough conditions. In itself that would have been fine but the icebergs around us were the issue. The impact of of hitting a small 'bergy' is a bit like concrete. We knew there was worse weather behind us so the only option was to keep moving and get out of the iced-up area as quickly and carefully as possible.
Because of the nature of ocean sailing, it's a different mindset, I think, to other sports. You have no choice but to be 100% self sufficient. If something goes wrong then there's no one but you to fix it. You simply have to deal with any situations that arise, and right there and then. You could be thousands of miles from land and so there isn't the option to just pull up and stop. There isn't an instant fix like that. Often I find that I'm only aware of fearful situations after the event because, at the time, I'm too busy dealing with it to think about it in any objective way.
- What’s the most fun you’ve had at sea and what has been your most memorable or favourite moment?
Oh so many! It's hard to choose. The day I arrived into port after my first solo ocean crossing will always stay with me. That was just amazing. I had finally done something I had wanted to do for years.
The first time I saw an iceberg out at sea was pretty spectacular. I was just in awe at the sheer size of it especially as we were still at quite a distance from it. But to be honest, there have been lots of moments rather than one in particular. Watching the sunrise or having dolphins with the boat are just as amazing as the more unusual events and I never get bored of either.
- Tell us about the Golden Globe Race.
The race is a solo, non-stop round-the-world yacht race. It's to mark the 50th anniversary of the first person to ever sail solo non-stop around the globe - Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. The race I'll be taking part in next year is a complete recreation of the first race which took place in 1968/69. This means that participants can only rely on the technology extant at the time. So no GPS or any modern navigational aids. We'll all be relying on the the sun and stars throughout the voyage. And no modern entertainment either, so no smartphones or other modern gadgets. So it'll be books and cassette tapes for. The whole race will take approximately nine months.
- Out of the 30 competitors you’re one of only two female participants. How do you think this challenges the stereotype of competitiveness in women?
In the original race there were no women at all. Sailing, and especially racing, is still male dominated but we have made progress. Having two women contest this race challenges the assumption that women can’t compete at the extreme level.
- How are you preparing for this race – physically, mentally and emotionally?
It's a tough one; there's no rule book or manual that explains how to be alone for nine months at sea while facing some of the harshest environments in the world. And since the race doesn't allow for any form of modern communications I'm aware that I'm going to be very alone out there.
The physical perspective is rather more straight forward. I need good all-round fitness and to be as strong as I can before the start. So, ahead of the race, and when I'm not on the boat, I'm doing a lot of weights and cross-fit. To prepare for the mental challenge I'm doing a lot of yoga and meditation which is good.
- How have people reacted to your taking up the Golden Globe Race challenge?
Mostly it's been positive. My family are very supportive and are always offering ideas and suggestions to get me through the race. It's the same with my very good friends. People who are close to me are not surprised I’m doing it, rather they look to what they can do to help. I’m very fortunate to have their support as I know I couldn't do this without them.
Any negativity I’ve had has been from people who that don't know me and so I just ignore it.
- You’ll be at sea alone for a long time (nine months!), how do you plan to cope with that?
At sea, it's the little things that take on a new meaning when you're out there alone - like watching an amazing sunrise or marvelling at an enormous wave. So even though I can fill the empty space with books and music I also want to enjoy those simple moments. I also have to remember that it's a race. The competitor in me wants to do well so there may not be too much time to contemplate. I'll have things I need to get done.
- During the race you’ll have access only to technology that was available at the time of the first race in 1968/69. Tell us more about what this will mean in terms of the task at hand but also from a personal perspective?
Not having modern navigational aids means navigation is a much bigger task and one that I'll need to be constantly tuned into. When crossing an ocean with GPS I can plot my position on the chart and not really think about it until I'm ready to plot the next one. However, without GPS navigation is a constant task. I'll need to take every opportunity of guiding myself using the sun or stars as there's no way of knowing when the next chance will arise.
This makes it more of a challenge but one I'm very much looking forward to taking on. There's an unbelievable sense of achievement when you've crossed an ocean without GPS and using nothing but the sun (and you've made it to the right island) .
But it's not easy. You really can't switch off or cut corner as the slightest decision can result in a change of course. I'll need to keep note of everything.
- Do you think we are too reliant on our smartphones and social media?
Well, having had a lot of breaks from my phone and social media when at sea, I know that for me it's the most wonderful break. I am sure the hours in the day double without my phone around. I do think it's made us less patient. It's an addiction. It is so freeing to have weeks without it. They're great tools to have but I think they've made us less connected in a real, more profound way, the ways that actually matter.
- Are you a feminist? If yes, what’s your definition of feminism?
Yes I am. To me being a feminist is simply believing that all opportunities should be equal regardless of gender. No gender should be treated as superior or lesser than the other. I don't think it means we should try and be like the other, rather embrace the differences and strengths of each because we're designed differently.
- Who would be your dream person to sail with?
Haha tough question… If I could take passenger on a trip, he would bring his guitar and sing the whole way, that would be awesome :)
- Your job obviously involves spending a lot of time away from family and friends. How do you deal with that?
The time I spend with friends and family is so important to me. Being away from them at sea makes me cherish the times we are together. And I think those times are better because they're less transient. We would have made the effort to spend time with and see each other. When I'm with friends and family I like to ensure there are no distractions; my phone will be off. Sailing has really taught me the value of individual moments and to treasure them. Being at sea alone has given me time to think and appreciate what I value in life.
- What advice would you give to other women to take on something that is perhaps out of their comfort zone?
When I first signed up for the Golden Globe Race I took a long time to tell most people about it. I didn't want the negativity or for people to suggest that what I was doing was reckless or ill thought out. So initially I only confided in those closest to me. With hindsight I'm glad I did that because it meant that I got the support I needed at the time. Now I don't care about the criticism and know that any negative comments are projected and not about me anyway.
So the advice I would give to someone is to tell them to confide in people who you know have your best interests at heart, who will be honest and will always encourage and support you.
- Rose & Willard means ‘Feminine & Bold’ which we think describes you perfectly. Who would you describe as Feminine & Bold and why?
My mum is definitely feminine and bold. If it wasn't for her I probably wouldn't be doing the Golden Globe Race. Mum has a ‘no fluff’ attitude. She would always tell us we could achieve anything. "What's stopping you?" she would say. My mum is Danish so I think she has a 'bold' Viking spirit. At the same time she embraces the joys of being a woman and can be very feminine.
We'll be monitoring Susie's progress throughout the race which begins in June 2018. She truly is an inspiring role model.
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