Singlehanded sailor Susie Goodall shares her storm tactics and experiences of ocean storms during the Golden Globe Race, providing lessons for all of us about heavy weather sailing

Throughout the 2018 Golden Globe Race, solo skipper Susie Goodall changed storm tactics, using both a drogue and warps.

Like Gregor McGuckin and Abhilash Tomy she was caught in a storm early in the Southern Indian Ocean, describing 70-knot winds and 15m (50ft) seas, with waves coming from four different directions.

She was knocked down several times. The conditions left her Monitor windvane bent and having to hand steer to keep her Rustler 36 DHL Starlight stern-to the waves.

Susie Goodall in racing out of Falmouth

The Rustler 36, DHL Starlight was fitted with a Minotor windvane. Credit: DHL/PPL/GGR

Speaking at the race’s Hobart gate, she said: ‘Every storm is different, and before this one I used to deploy a drogue to slow the boat down. I don’t know why, but in that last storm I towed warps and hand-steered to keep the boat stern-to and it seemed better. My tactic had been to let the boat sail through it, but that time I couldn’t.’

She was using a drogue when her boat pitch-poled and dismasted on 5 December 2018 in the Southern Ocean 45º27’S, 122º23’W.

The failed Flemish loop on the drogue used by Susie Goodall in the Golden Globe Race

The Flemish loop on Susie Goodall’s drogue before and after the fatal knockdown. Credit: Susie Goodall

It had been performing well, keeping the boat’s stern into the swell and wind, until the drogue hawser snapped, propelling the boat forward just as a rogue wave hit.

It ended her race.

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Having read Roger Taylor’s Mingming & the Art of Minimal Ocean Sailing, Goodall told Yachting Monthly that she hadn’t used a bowline to secure the hawser [Taylor lost his drogue in the North Atlantic after securing his hawser with a bowline].

It was later found that the drogue failed on the manufactured Flemish loop on the rode.

Golden Globe Race skipper Susie Goodall - the only woman in the race

Susie Goodall found being becalmed was one of the most challenging parts of the race. Credit: DHL/PPL/GGR

The manufacturer, Ocean Brake, has now changed the way it makes the ends of its drogues. ‘We stopped using Flemish loops about a year or so ago in most cases, as it was only to allow people to add more cones more easily,’ Ocean Brake’s Angus Coleman told YM.

‘We only use soft eye splices on the inboard end of the drogues now. I think there were various factors at play [in Susie’s knockdown], but as the Flemish loop is the easiest for me as a manufacturer to change, I am happy that we no longer utilise Flemish loops on the leader sections.’

Susie Goodall onboard DHL Starlight

Susie Goodall was 4th through the Hobart Film Gate. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

Goodall has since gone to complete in the MailASail Azores and Back (AZAB), racing 2,400 miles double handed with fellow Golden Globe skipper Mark Slats in his Rustler 36 Masthead sloop, Ohpen Maverick.

They came 1st in Class 4 and 6th overall in the race, which took place in June 2019.

Read the full report Storm Tactics From The Golden Globe Race in the Summer 2019 issue of Yachting Monthly – Available here: