Sam Goodchild: the British sailor preparing for his first Vendée Globe

‘The French love crazy sailing adventures, I feel at home here’

Sam Goodchild is focussed on fulfilling a lifetime ambition of competing in the Vendée Globe this year
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Sam Goodchild is preparing to fulfil his lifetime ambition of competing in the Vendée Globe round-the-world sailing race.

Born in the UK, Sam spent the first part of his childhood living on a boat in Grenada, so sailing has always been at the centre of his life.

He first arrived in France in 2011, and became a permanent resident in 2015.

“There is a more structured approach to sailing in France than in the UK. Here, it isn’t necessary to own your own boat because there is a well-developed sponsorship model, and the infrastructure is better.”

“In the UK it is still a bit of an amateur sport. They excel in the Olympics, but the French are very keen on adventures and doing crazy things. There is just a different image of sailing in France.”

Read more: Key cultural and sporting events in France in 2024

‘I made an effort to learn French’

He learned French during the first training sessions he did in France.

“I was in a house with French speakers and really made the effort to learn.”

These days he and his French wife speak French at home in Ploemeur, near Lorient in Brittany, although he says he makes an effort to speak English with their two children.

“When you first arrive in France you struggle to find a restaurant that’s open, and you forget that the shops are closed for lunch, but I enjoy life here, I feel I am accepted, and France is home now,” he says.

Read more: How to learn French through language acquisition

What is the Vendée Globe?

Founded in 1989, the Vendée Globe is fiendishly challenging. Out of the 200 entrants so far, only 114 have managed to cross the finish line.

Sailors attempt to circumnavigate the world solo, non-stop and without assistance.

The route is 44,996kms, and the record so far is 74 days and 3 hours.

The race starts on November 10 2024 from Les Sables d’Olonne.

“This is the dream, doing this is what brought me to France. You have to qualify, to be in the race. I’ll be sailing across the Atlantic solo in April/May and there is a lot of technical stuff to prepare.

“The weather is a major element in the race. We are a team of two boats and 30 people, so we are preparing everything together as a team, but once the race begins it’s each man for himself.”

‘Your need physical and psychological stamina’

He says his primary aim will be to avoid injury.

“The boat moves a lot in storms, and the sails are heavy so you need a certain level of physical fitness. But the primary aim is to make sure I don’t do my back in or break an ankle.

“The activities during the race are very diverse; you’re fixing stuff, navigating, you have to manage your sleep and nutrition, so there are a lot of elements to work on.

“You need quite a lot of psychological stamina because it is three months in a confined space on your own.

“I’m preparing for that with a sports psychologist, working with him to see what might be hard for me, and what might be less hard. It’s about mental preparation.”

‘I’ve been working towards this all my life’

He admits that having children adds a whole new element to the race. But he says his family is very supportive.

“I’ve been working towards this all my life, networking, dealing with finance, the physical side of it, the teamwork... so it’s not coming out of the blue, and of course we have internet and phones.”

Even now, at the beginning of the year, he is completely focused on the race.

“There isn’t a plan for afterwards. I’m a professional sailor, so the chances are I’ll remain in the industry, but who knows.”

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