British solo skipper Sam Goodchild recently scored a sweet sponsorship deal with American media services giant Netflix in an innovative tie up with his Class 40 entry in the upcoming Route du Rhum transatlantic race from France to Guadeloupe.
We caught up with Sam shortly before he left Lorient bound for St. Malo in his smartly branded boat promoting the new series of the streaming network’s hit show Narcos.
YRL: How long have you been preparing for the Route du Rhum? What races have you done and how much time have you spent on the water? Has this been your sole focus or have you been doing other sailing?
SG: The owner of the boat Peter Harding and myself first discussed this project in August last year. We started sailing in March this year with some training based out of Lorient and the season has been a nice mix of crewed and solo.
The first race was the 1000 milles des Sables [where he finished second – Ed.]. Then we did the Normandy Channel Race [12th – Ed.], Dhream Cup [1st- Ed.], Round Britain and Ireland [Did not finish – Ed.], Cowes-Dinard Race [3rd – Ed.] and the Cherbourg Race [1st – Ed.].
My main focus this year has been the Class 40. Apart from a mini break for transatlantic training on Spindrift [40 metre maxi trimaran – the largest racing trimaran in the world] my Class 40 boat/project has been my life since February.
YRL: You have done plenty of high-performance multihull ocean racing with some top teams/sailors in the last few years. How has this helped with your monohull solo sailing?
SG: The last few years has been amazing – sailing with some of the best sailors around on some of the coolest boats on the water. I’ve learnt a lot from sailing with the likes of Brian Thompson with the crew he had on the Phaedo Mod 70 and Yann Guichard onboard Spindrift.
Learning from their skills, thought processes and priorities has been great. Even if crewing a multihull is different to soloing a Class 40. It’s all great experience that I can take into the Route du Rhum.
YRL: Your sponsorship with Netflix seems really innovative. What can you tell us about it and how did it come about? Is it just for the Route du Rhum or is there a longer-term commitment?
SG: The sponsorship came about through the communications agency Rivacom who were contacted by Netflix as to what activation could be done around the Route du Rhum to promote the fourth season of Narcos.
They had a few meetings and proposals and fortunately my project got picked. It has given my campaign a massive boost along the way to actually getting to the start line and being more competitive.
YRL: How do you assess your standing in the Class 40 fleet for the RDR? Who do you see as the top skippers in the fleet? What goal have you set yourself? To win? Top 5? Or something else?
SG: Of the 53 starters, for me there are three stand out favourites – Yoann Richomme, Nico Troussel and Aymeric Chappellier – and then 15 others that could get in the mix if their stars line up. I think it’s realistic to see myself as part of the 15.
My aim is to win or to know exactly why I haven’t :). My boat is well tested and a good all-rounder, but it lacks form stability compared to the newer boats.
It’s my first solo transatlantic race so I’d definitely like to finish! That said, it’s a solo transatlantic race in November – so anything can happen and everyone is going to have problems of some sort.
To be honest I am excited and scared at the same time by the unknown to come.
YRL: Tell us about the team you have supporting you for the RDR? Who is involved? Who are the key people and roles?
On the sponsor side, there is the agency Rivacom who are running the communications, with Fanny Pouder as the Attaché de Presse.
Olly Young, a great friend and amazing boat worker, is helping me get both the boat and me ready.
Marcus Hutchinson is helping in a part time advisory role. With all his experience at least for him it won’t feel like the first time!
Brian Thompson is helping me with weather pre-start in St Malo.
Then there’s more friends and family than I ever knew I had who have been helping me out and making sure everything is as ready and as low stress as possible.
I think that’s about enough people for a Class 40 campaign!
YRL: You are a young fit guy but solo sailing is tough on the body. Tell us a bit about your fitness regime?
SG: The priority for me physically has been keeping a good core base to reduce the chances of injury. It’s been a busy year prepping the boat, the sponsor search, and now the sponsor delivery. So the fitness regime has taken a hit compared to when I was on crewed projects – but the priorities are a bit different with a project like this.
YRL: What is the timeline now in the final weeks to the RDR start?
SG: The boat is pretty well packed and ready to go other than a few checks and small jobs which Olly is all over. There will be enough things and distractions in St Malo to keep us busy for the 10 days before the start. But at the moment we are happy to be in a good place.
YRL: You are taking on a massive solo ocean crossing – is there any fear creeping in? What do you worry about? What’s the biggest thing that could go wrong with the boat?
SG: Definitely there are a few worries. I’ve never spent more than five days on my own and we are looking at 16+ for the Route du Rhum.
My biggest fear is the unknown – dealing with the stuff that I haven’t expected. I’ve done my best to ask around and learn what I can from the experienced people around me. But for my first solo transatlantic race I feel like I’m in a pretty good place mentally and with the boat.