Susie Goodall Pitchpoled

Update April 2019: We now know exactly what happened with Susie’s drogue.

Most everybody interested in offshore sailing knows that Susie Goodall was pitchpoled on December 5th in her Rustler 36 while competing in the Golden Globe 2018.

And I’m sure many of you spent the next two days, as Phyllis and I did, checking the Golden Globe site, Facebook, and Twitter, for fragments of news about the rescue of this wonderful and adventurous woman. And then, like us, celebrated when the wonderful news that she was safe aboard a cargo ship came through.

As always happens with these sorts of things, within minutes of the news the speculation started about what happened, particularly since the GG 2018 release stated that:

…she said that before the incident, she had been enjoying the conditions and felt in control. But then the safety tube on her Monitor self-steering broke and she was forced to trail a drogue anchor astern and take down the mainsail.

She was below decks when the boat was pitchpoled, and when she returned on deck to assess the damage, found that the line attached to the drogue had parted.

I did a little investigation the morning after and it turns out that Susie had sourced three storm survival devices over the last couple of years:

Here’s my source for the last two.

I was not able to find out which of the above she was using when she was pitchpoled, or even which she had aboard, although I think there was a mention of using the sea anchor after the dismasting. Hopefully Susie will be able to tell us more.

And if it was the series drogue built by Ocean Brake, we will need to really dig into what broke and make sure there is not a potential weak spot at the bridle-to-drogue join.

The good news is that Angus and Ocean Brake have a great track record of learning from problems and improving their product, so I’m sure that if Susie was using their drogue they will be all over this looking for clues to what happened.

Here’s what Angus had to say in an email I received from him on the 6th in answer to my enquires:

I sold Susie her drogue a few years back now. It was a fairly standard 116 cone drogue, with 5m bridles and soft eyes inboard and outboard. I haven’t heard from her since.

We always splice with a very long tuck, at least 60cm, so I can’t believe that they have failed. I haven’t seen any images yet, but possibly there was chafe where the bridles were rubbing against the monitor self steer?

I am looking to do away with conventional double braid bridles from next year and only use dyneema, both from a chafe perspective and also from a weight perspective, but I will be looking into this situation to try and figure out what has happened.

I am incredibly concerned regarding what has happened, there is no reason why a drogue (or set of bridles) should have failed in “only” 60kts of wind.

That’s all I know right now and, further, I think it would be a waste of my time and yours to speculate about the causes until we have more information from Susie.

We also need to go into this realizing that we may never know what happened for sure. That said, if she was using the Ocean Brake series drogue, lack of real data won’t stop some people using this incident to claim that the series drogue designed by Don Jordan doesn’t work, even though putting a single incident with incomplete information ahead of hundreds of successful deployments, and solid science, is an epic failure of rational thought.

To those nay sayers I say “gotta better idea”? One thing the Golden Globe 2018 has proved for sure, is that the answer to that question is a resounding “no”.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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