When he starts the Retour à La Base solo race back to France on Thursday lunchtime, for Britain’s Sam Goodchild the pressure in terms of delivering a result will be off. An excellent third place on the outward Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, sailing For The Planet, means that the primary focus of the first solo IMOCA ocean race of his career will be about developing his solo game and not pushing the risks to achieve a result on a course which promises to be fast and gnarly.

Sam, so in fact how much solo sailing have you done on For The Planet?

“Nothing at all. (laughs). We have talked about it. I did a couple of manoeuvres on my own when we were crewed sailing. So this will be a bit of a voyage of discovery. But it is probably a perfect Transat for it, starting off in the Tradewinds in fairly stable winds, upwind. I should be able to ease my way into it, getting into the sleeping, resting, eating looking after myself routine. Then we have a few days before we get into the hard conditions. Rather this than going the other way at the moment! “

So do you have a particular ambition in your head, or do you just want to get this race done?

“I enjoy racing and intend to make a race of it, but I don’t need to finish third like I have done in the rest of the races this year. It would be just nice to be getting into it well as there are now two solo Transats and a round the world next year so I have to get used. And it feels this has crept up nicely. I am looking forwards to getting into solo sailing. The pressure event was the Transat Jacques Vabre and we did well, that was a success, there so the pressure is off.”

Is your boat suited more to this race course compared to the new boats for example?

“I have no idea. I think that being solo will possibly bring the fleet together a bit more as we use the pilot a lot more, you have to manage sleep, sail changes are more complicated and I think it could bring people together a bit more. But it is very new to me so I don’t know, it will be interesting to se where people set the cursor because we can’t go as hard as double handed. It will be interesting to see how people sail single handed. You can’t afford to get into any kind of difficulties.”

And what about being alone, going solo, do you especially enjoy solo racing?

“I like it all, I really do. It was interesting on The Ocean Race having five people on board and having that interaction with five people and learning how to push the boat hard, and then two handed with Antoine was really interesting as he has so much experience and obviously a different way of looking at things as a designer. He has looked at so many IMOCAs on the computer, he is interesting to sail with. And then solo, I love being able to do a bit of everything.”

But the intensity, the ‘always on’ aspect of solo racing appeals to you?

“I like the challenge and that you constantly have to prioritise. You simply cannot do everything at the same time. It is intense and you are pushing all the time. The person who makes the fewest mistakes and chooses the right priorities at the right moments is the person who wins. I am looking forwards to seeing how this boat goes single-handed.”

And Thomas Ruyant, whose team your race with and who had the boat before you, was successful solo, I assume he has given you some guidance?

“We have chatted a lot over the course of the year. He did last season solo and did well, and so I have all of his references for solo and he has given some tips and advice. And for sure it is has not been our focus this season at all, but of course the main focus of everything is the Vendée Globe and so it is all about learning and improving solo.”

Describe the course and the key stages?

“It is broken into three stages, going upwind or close to upwind to go north. And there is a light winds zone to get through on the Azores or North Atlantic high and then we try and hook into a low pressure coming off the eat coast of the USA. Ideally it is going at the same speed as us and we ride it all he way to France. I guess where the variation is what sort of low pressure do you get, how fast is it going and how south it is. That will determine very quickly what sort of conditions you have. It is going to be interesting. The first four days could be quite chilled out then it will be full on. “

Do you foresee there being strategic options which will split the fleet?

“At the moment I don’t think there will be huge splits. I think, again, everyone want to compare themselves to each other, the split will come when we go east when you decide how much wind you want to be in, some might want to be in 40kts some in 20kts, I imagine it will stay fairly close together.”