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British skipper Sam Goodchild (FOR THE PLANET) takes third in Retour à La Base

by Retour à La Base 9 Dec 2023 19:41 PST 10 December 2023
IMOCA For The Planet skipper Sam Goodchild is taking 3rd place during arrivals of the sailing race Retour à La Base, in Lorient, France, on December 10 © Jean-Louis Carli / Alea / Retour à La Base

British skipper Sam Goodchild (FOR THE PLANET) maintained his remarkably consistent form when he completed his first ever solo IMOCA race, the 3,500 nautical miles inaugural Retour à La Base from Martinique to Lorient in third place.

In taking his fourth consecutive third position, his fifth of the year, Goodchild wins the 2023 IMOCA Globe Series championship and is the first British skipper ever to do so.

Goodchild, who celebrated his 34th birthday in Martinique, crossed the finish line at 23:43:21hrs UTC this Saturday night (00:43:21 FR Sunday morning). His elapsed time is 9d 07h 43min 21s and he finishes 7hrs 39mins 33secs behind winner Yoann Richomme (Paprec-Arkéa) and 1h 49 min 50 secs behind second placed Jérémie Beyou (Charal).

Third place tonight on his first solo IMOCA event caps a dream 2023 season for the British racer who left his native Falmouth more than a dozen years ago to pursue his solo ocean racing career in France.

After successes in Class40 and wining the Ocean Fifty Pro Tour representing Leyton, in February this year he moved to Thomas Ruyant's TR Racing program when his campaign sailing in the colours of the Leyton Sailing Team joined forces to fast track Goodchild's aspirations of winning the Vendée Globe. He took control of Ruyant's previous 2019 Verdier design, formerly Linked Out.

Goodchild sailed The Ocean Race on Holcim PRB before leaving to ramp up his own IMOCA programme which is supported by Ruyant and one of the most talented, accomplished technical shore teams in the French ocean racing arena.

He immediately highlighted his potential with third on late July's Fastnet Race, setting the tone for a third in the Defi Azimuth before the most recent third on the classic Transat Jacques Vabre, always racing with co-skipper, naval architect Antoine Koch.

Now very much the complete ocean racer Goodchild has sailed a measured, confident race across solo back across the Atlantic, finding his solo IMOCA marks he showed his ability to sail both fast and smoothly, drawing on all of his experiences in offshore and ocean racing classes from the Beneteau Figaro 3 to the Ultim giant multihulls, and most recently in the Southern Ocean on The Ocean Race.

Goodchild was actually the first to break the start line when the race started in light winds and beautiful Caribbean sunshine on Thursday 30th November. He held his own on the northwards climb before getting to the front of the 32 boat fleet as the leaders transitioned around the Azores high. When Richomme made what proved to be his winning move to the north, into stronger winds on the first low pressure,

He chose to minimise the risk to himself and his boat. He closed to within 18 miles of Beyou in the final 36 hours but was unable to close the gap but is finally content with his solid third place.

Sam Goodchild on the pontoon

Sam Goodchild's arrival at the dock at Lorient La Base at around 0145hrs local time was relaxed and personable. He was quick to get off his IMOCA For The Planet and see his young family on the pontoon but share hugs and moments with his friends, peers, sponsors and supporters, past and present and race management.

How was it Sam?

I am happy to be here, happy it is over. It has been nine very, very intense days. I don't think there has been a dry moment on the deck, these are technically difficult boats to keep going, and trying to get the balance right. They have much more power than we can manage, it is so hard to know where to set the throttle at, where you set the cursor.

I am happy with third, I feel like I have been saying that all year though, but this is one is nice to be third in because it is more of a boost to my self confidence that I can do it without Antoine (Koch co-skipper) and Thomas (Ruyant). Obviously they helped a lot getting me here, but it is great."

And what about winning the IMOCA Globe Series?

Well I guess I have been doing too much sailing! But it has been a really big year, from my first IMOCA race ever in January leaving fully crewed on Holcim PRB in January to where we are today, it has been such a big year.

Which part of these experiences has contributed most to your success?

I think everything has contributed to this today, sailing Holcim PRB with Kevin and learning the boats with that group was great and then sailing double handed with Antoine who designed the other boats, it has been kind of a perfect progression.

And what about in terms of solo experience looking ahead to the Vendée Globe, were there points when you were thinking 'how can we sustain this for a month in the big south?

I don't know how we held that pace up for a week, far less a month in the south, it is so intense you can see here the difference between sailing double handed and solo, the intensity you can maintain you are going a little bit slower, but doing that for two and a half months does seem kind of impossible.

What was the useful learning?

I learned a few things the right way, or the wrong way...I struggled with sleep and I struggled eating, which I never had trouble with before, I never struggle to eat but the boat is moving around so much that preparing food is difficult so you end up not preparing enough and not eating enough. These are small problems to have and good problems because there are solutions.

And any strategic regrets, do you now wish you had gone with Yoann Richomme when he broke north?

I remember when I watched Yoann going north and he went into a 'go low' mode (on starboard gybe) and I was in a 'go high mode' and I don't think it would have changed much, he definitely has a boat which is much faster in these conditions, and I was happy to stay out of these conditions. I don't know it would have made much of a difference in terms of the result. Maybe I would have been closer to him, I don't know....And Jéremie? I think he was just happy to have me pushing him from 20 miles behind, I sped up he sped up....he was just toying with me, making me feel I had a chance!

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