Ryan Breymaier (USA) and Boris Herrmann (GER) crossed the finish line of the Barcelona World Race at 1513hrs (UTC) to take fifth place on a perfect spring Sunday afternoon.
Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann in Barcelona after their finish in the Barcelona World Race
In Brittany, the epicentre of solo and short handed ocean racing which is their adopted home area, they had only moved in similar circles but had never even met before they were brought together only last year, united to pursue a dream they both shared. Their first meeting, like a bizarre blind date, was over dinner in Concarneau’s Verriere bar, 30 minutes from where Herrmann lived.
Today the pre-race poster boys not only fulfil that dream in a placing which achieves their pre-race target, but the execution of their entire 25,200-mile course has earned them widespread and considerable acclaim for a maturity which belies the fact that this Barcelona World Race is their first IMOCA Open 60 ocean race together. They did not let crucial damage to a hydraulic ram keel control affect their philosophy, even though it knocked 20-25% off their maximum performance since before Cape Horn.
Docked in the late afternoon sunshine at the foot of the iconic Columbus monument before a large international crowd Ryan Breymaier said: 'The goal of this was to get around the world non-stop, especially this being our first time, and not being the newest boat in the fleet, the goal was never that we were going to win, we were just out to do the best that we possibly could, and make our sponsors proud, to make our friends and family proud, and that is the overriding thing: to have done this race to the highest level we were capable of doing it at, not to have left anything on the field of battle, so to speak. And to just know that when we stand here in Barcelona that we did the best we could, that everyone else who knows us knew that we did the best we could. We have never given up, yes it is difficult, we started going upwind for 19 days, from the Equator and when you are missing the last 25% of your keel, it is like having a 50 foot boat against a 60 foot boat. We just did the best we could. That is the only philosophy you can have: 1: make sure you finish, 2 do the best that you can.'
Only the third team to finish this edition of the race without stopping, Herrmann becomes the first German sailor ever to complete a non-stop racing circumnavigation and to finish an IMOCA Open 60 race, whilst Breymaier – a late adopter to sailing who only started sailing seriously at college in 1993 – is the first American to finish the Barcelona World Race.
Among the highlights of a race which they often made look effortless has been close boat-for-boat duels. First with the event’s most experienced duo Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret on Mirabaud, who they tussled with from the descent of the South Atlantic to the threshold of the Pacific, when Neutrogena finally eased away from the Swiss-French couple, and then a match race up the Atlantic with Estrella Damm which only finally escaped just north of the Cape Verde Islands to earn fourth place, finishing yesterday morning.
Herrmann: 'For me, remembering especially the very long match race in the Indian ocean with Mirabaud remains the essence of this race for us. Every update the distances changed a bit for either them or us, I remember one moment when we could just see them, maybe four miles away. Both boats with very reduced sails, going very fast in rough seas. And we said, ‘Ok, now we’ve caught them we can take a reef and we would still be faster.’ We were then taking a reef and still doing 33 knots, the fastest moment of the race was just then.
'The next position report they had run away 10 miles, that was a very intense time of the race.'
To the west of Cape Horn, some days after Breymaier revealed that they had leaked oil from a keel ram, their pace slowed slightly but it was only when they passed Cape Horn, speaking by video simultaneously to Race HQ and to their team in Concarneau, Brittany, that Herrmann confirmed that they had a damaged keel ram which would progressively compromise their performance. In the end that was a major contributing factor when Estrella Damm finally broke away to set up a fast reaching return to Gibraltar, while Neutrogena was left slogging upwind, close to the rhumb line.
Their repair skills were tested rebuilding the autopilot hydraulics, the hydrogenerators, a costly 90 minutes odyssey to the lee of Isla Nueva at the entrance to the Beagle Channel to fix a Solent headstay fitting which cost them miles, and a major repair to a water ballast pipe.
One of their most memorable moments for sure will be when a key sail tumbled off the deck when they broached. Their rapid, seemingly forlorn search, in the tumultuous waters was suddenly successful when they spotted a number of albatross resting on the semi-waterlogged, bagged sail.
It is the German co-skipper’s second round-the-world race, after winning the two handed Portimao Global Ocean Race in 2009, which is a with-stops race in 40-foot Class 40’s.
Despite having no past history as a partnership before their preparation started with the 2004-launched Marc Lombard-designed IMOCA Open 60 – which was previously the Route du Rhum winning, (and second in the Vendée Globe until losing its keel) Veolia of Roland Jourdain - Herrmann and Breymaier have gelled as a very strong team which took early cognisance of their respective strengths, weaknesses and different characters. Herrmann lived with Breymaier and his wife Nicola in the lead-in months.
Their complementary skills have been the bedrock of their success, but the duo have also developed a strong rapport, a working relationship which has taken account of their different strengths. Breymaier knows every centimetre of the boat and rig, while Herrmann, a former 49er and 505 high performance dinghy racer who graduated through the Mini Class to the Class 40, brought the circumnavigation experience. Both proved, from Day 1, that they had the skills to sail the boat consistently fast.
Breymaier, who moved to Europe six years ago to pursue his dream, worked as a preparateur and rig specialist with Jourdain’s team. In fact in 2007 he prepared the red IMOCA Open 60 for the French skipper’s attack with Jean Luc Nélias on the first Barcelona World Race, as well subsequently for the Vendée Globe in 2008-9.
Ironically this will be the boat’s first fully completed circumnavigation after retirements from two successive solo Vendée Globe races. The pair completed the theoretical course of 25,200 miles at an average of 10.49 knots, actually sailing 27,850 miles at an average speed of 11.59 knots, arriving 6 days, 4 hours, 53 minutes and 25 seconds after race winners Virbac-Paprec 3.
Their race has been underpinned by rock solid consistency, very strong, assured weather strategies in each ocean – they will be one of the few teams who will be almost entirely happy with their weather choices – and a youthful endurance which allowed them to hold pace, or be faster, than many newer generation boats. Even so theirs has been a big learning curve, the fruits of which Herrmann hopes to take forwards to the solo Vendée Globe.
Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann crossed the finish line to complete their Barcelona World Race at 15:13:25hrs UTC (17:13:25hrs local) on Sunday April 10th in fifth place. Their elapsed time for the course was 100 days, 3 hours, 13 minutes and 25 seconds, an average speed for the course of 10.49kts for the 25,200 miles theoretical course. They sailed an actual course of 27,850 miles, at an average 11.59 knots.
Neutrogena - Barcelona World Race 2011
How they made ground in the trades going down the Atlantic -
Ryan: 'Over the course we had a very good idea of exactly what conditions would favour this boat, and the main conditions that favour us are big waves and a lot of breeze downwind. Knowing that and knowing that the trades were particularly strong, we kept the big kite up and drove the boat by hand for four days. And that’s more or less how we managed to keep up with or get ahead of some of those boats that had passed us or had gotten away from us a bit.
'It’s pretty exhausting work though, at the best of times people are normally driving boats for an hour or two at a stretch, but to do it for four days straight off and on is not very easy to do, but that’s the size of it - capitalizing on the times when we could go fast.'
Then after that, it became a series of match races with Renault and Mirabaud, what did that add?
Boris: 'For me, remembering especially the very long match race in the Indian ocean with Mirabaud remains the essence of this race for us. Every update the distances changed a bit for either them or us, I remember one moment when we could just see them, maybe four miles away. Both boats with very reduced sails, going very fast in rough seas. And we said, ‘Ok, now we’ve caught them we can take a reef and we would still be faster.’ We were then taking a reef and still doing 33 knots, the fastest moment of the race was just then.
'The next position report they had run away 10 miles, that was a very intense time of the race.'
You had a Cape Horn meeting with Thomas Coville with Sodebo, was that a special moment?
Boris: 'We knew there was probably going to be a meeting between us and Sodebo and Thomas Coville on his trimaran at Cape Horn. It was fascinating, we had a sunrise just behind Cape Horn, and see the silhouette of this mountain. And at the same moment just on the horizon behind us we see a little dot that catches up with us and we both go past Cape Horn at the same moment, just 20 minutes from each other. And then you see this guy, Thomas Coville, running on the trampoline to us, saying hello. And he’s screaming with his arms in the air, you can really feel his energy and his power. I thought: that’s the king of the sea, doing a fantastic job.'
Herrmann (left) and Breymaier in the navigation station - Barcelona World Race
You had some negative moments – the keel breakage and when Estrella Damm passed you and there was no more battle than just getting home – how do you keep positive?
Ryan: 'When we had our keel trouble our first thought was immediately: our race is over right now, and that was something that we were not really prepared for or were not really interested in! The fact that we were able to get it back to the point where it functions at 75 per cent or something like that is not a miracle but definitely very lucky.
'That gave us motivation just to keep going and see how we could do after that. The goal of this was to get around the world non-stop. Especially it being our first time and not being on the newest boat in the fleet, the goal was never that we were going to win, we just wanted to do as well as we possibly could and make our sponsors proud, make our friends and family proud. And that’s the over-riding thing, do have done this race to the highest level that we were capable of doing it. Not to have left anything on the field of battle, so to speak, and just to make sure that when we got here to Barcelona that we knew we’d done the best we could and everyone else that knows us knew we did the best we could. We’d never given up, we’d never had just let things go.
'Yeah, it’s difficult, especially when we started going upwind. We went upwind for, I don’t know how long, 18 days or something from the Equator, and when you’re missing the last 25 per cent of the keel it’s like having a 50ft boat against a 60ft boat. But we just did the best we could. That’s the only philosophy you can have in a race like this; 1, make sure you finish, 2, do the best you can.'
Tell us about your relationship, what were the most testing times for you?
Boris: 'That’s not so easy to answer. As you say, we are mates, we became good friends. There’s an old saying that if you sail with someone on a boat, you either become good friends or you never want to see each other. Of course in 100 days there are days which are more tough or more tension, it’s just normal, and some really good days when you have fun together and we had a lot of fun together.
'I don’t know if we’ll have the opportunity to sail together again, but I would say if it’s possible I would look forward to it.' [Ryan nods]
Ryan, you’ve just gone around the world non-stop in 100 days, how does it feel?
Ryan: 'Well, other than the day I met my wife this has been the biggest day of my life thus far. I have to say that 100 days is an awfully long time. The only other thing I think in normal human experience that takes longer than sailing around the world is a woman being pregnant, and that’s three times longer so I can imagine most women have a better idea of long drawn out things!
'But it’s been a very interesting experience. I think that I’ve learnt a lot about myself. Going back to the question of how we’ve got along, I’ve definitely learnt about myself in so far as how I deal with Boris in this small situation, and I think that’s very valuable. And just the way I’ve had plenty of time to think about life and think about other things. It’s a competition but it’s also an experience in other ways. It’s been super-valuable for me I think in terms of my personal growth. If it wasn’t such a pain in the ass I’d recommend it to everyone!'