In the wake of the announcement that Sam Goodchild will sail the former LinkedOut in the IMOCA Globe Series as part of the new TR Racing team, we spoke to the 33-year-old British skipper about his ambitions for the Vendée Globe and his long-awaited debut in the IMOCA Class.

Sam, tell us what this all means to you after many years of trying to find a way into the IMOCA Class?

It’s pretty cool…in fact very cool…it’s very exciting. I mean the way in which it has come about, as far as a first Vendée Globe goes, it’s kind of perfect in a way. It is a lot of things lined up in a good way, which is great. I mean, I always said to myself I don’t want to do a first Vendée Globe just to do a Vendée Globe and not care about how it is done. And my patience has paid off by the looks of it.

Do you see yourself at the helm of a competitive entry, with winning chances?

Yeah, I’m a competitor. I want to do things well. I want to have a competitive campaign, not just do it, to do it. So to be able to do it with the reference boat of today – or the reference boat of last year anyway – and running that inside the old team, so we get a massive boost in learning and getting up to speed on the boat, is great. We have got the whole technical team and the sailing team and obviously Thomas (Ruyant) in-house – on board and trying to help us get ready as well. And then working with another boat – so we can help them get up to speed and they can help us get up to speed. It’s kind of great. And I am surrounded by lots of good people, so it’s a bloody good way to go off on my first Vendée I think.

How long have you been trying to get into IMOCA?

I learned what the Vendée Globe was back in 2004. That was like ‘I want to do that’ and everyone said ‘you can’t do that – that’s crazy.’ So I said ‘OK, so I’ll prove you wrong then, shall I?’ Then I moved to the UK in 2005, and met Mike Golding and Alex Thomson, and was on the startline with Mike’s shore crew in 2008, and did the whole down-the-channel thing at Les Sables with Mike, which was obviously quite an experience and something you don’t forget, especially as an 18-year-old. Then in 2010 the Artemis Academy was set up, so that was the Figaro campaign, and all that was with the aim of working towards the Vendée Globe. Somewhere in between then and now, I guess is where it all really started.

The easiest way to get into IMOCA is with an old boat and a low budget campaign – but you always wanted to go in at the Grand Prix end of the fleet?

I guess coming from the Figaro campaign, I learned that I much prefer doing campaigns properly and doing them well and trying to win and having a chance of winning. If you think of offshore sailing as a mix between adventure and competition, I’ve always liked having a good amount of competition in there and not just adventure for the sake of it. So definitely in the last 10-15 years of my career, I’ve placed my priority much more on competition than just taking part and maybe it’s meant that I’ve got to the Vendée Globe a bit later than I could have done, if I had been happy to make higher compromises.

Tell us about your relationship with Thomas, who will be racing his new IMOCA alongside you?

We met for first time when we did the 2011 TJV against each other. Then we were rookies in the first Figaro in the same year. I live in Lorient now, and we both have kids in the same school, and we have crossed paths a lot in the last 10 years, and have always had mutual respect for each other. And so honestly, the least worrying aspect of the new programme is working with Thomas. He’s good and he’s a nice guy and I’ve got no worries about working with him.

Will this affect how long you stay with Holcim-PRB in The Ocean Race?

All of this has been has been planned for a long time, so it’s been worked on. Holcim know that I have got an IMOCA project coming up, and what it involves and what it is. It’s not a surprise to them, so the fact that later in the campaign (The Ocean Race) I’ll be doing a bit more juggling they are aware of, and we will work together on it. I’m not doing Leg 4, but will probably do a leg or two at the end of the race as well.

The Ocean Race must be a good learning experience given that you will be in an IMOCA yourself in a few months time?

Yeah, for sure, I am learning a load, sailing with Kevin (Escoffier), sailing on Holcim and sailing against the other boats, so that’s great. It’s definitely a good experience and my duty – what Kevin has employed me for – is to do my job well. So I am trying to work hard on doing that, and trust the people we have put around us to work on the boat back at home.

How much of a relief is to get off three hulls and be on one, after your years in the Ocean Fifty class?

I remember the first sail on Holcim and it was a massive relief that when the boat started leaning over in a gust. I had two thoughts: one, I wasn’t the skipper and two, it wasn’t a trimaran. Yeah, it’s a different challenge and I am looking forward to not having to worry about capsizing the whole time.

It’s sad that the boat in which you had so much success in the Ocean Fifty class gave you such a savage send-off, with that facial injury at the start of the Rhum?

Yeah, it is a bit of a shame – but that’s sailing for you. There will be ups and downs and the biggest thing that injury taught me is to appreciate the ups a bit more, because the downs are never too far away.

This announcement is very exciting for British sailing isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s great. When was the last time we had this many British skippers in IMOCA? – probably 2008. So hopefully this can help drum up more interest in the Class in the UK, and mean the idea of finding British sponsors for the Vendée Globe can become a reality again.

And, of course, no British skipper has won the Vendée Globe…yet?
Well, that means there will be a first some time, hopefully. We are working on it anyway!

Ed Gorman

© © Pierre Bouras