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Meet the Vendée Globe skippers: Kojiro Shiraishi

by Vendee Globe 26 Jun 23:25 PDT
Channel Ambiance with Kojiro Shiraishi JAP Skipper Spirit of Yukoh © Olivier Blanchet /DPPI /Vendee Globe

The first Asian person to be at the start of the Vendée Globe, Kojiro is back. For his pleasure, but also for the memory of his mentor Yukoh Tada who gave him the idea to become a sailor.

General Info

  • Date of birth: May 8th 1967
  • Place of birth: Kamakura, Japan
  • Home town: Kamakura, Japan
Studies and career outside of sailing: Misaki Nautical engineering high school. I learned the basic knowledge of the boat industry. That went from knowing how to work an engine to how to fish. Our field trip was a trip on a Tuna fishing boat towards Hawaii. We weren't allowed to touch land before making the fish tank full. It took us 3 months to fish 50 tonnes of Tuna. We were authorized to go to Hawaii for 3 days, before making our way back on the same boat to Japan. It was a hard, tough, strict school and forged me to the man I am now!"

My Early Career

Your first sailing trip: where, when, circumstances?

"With Yukoh Tada, my mentor at the age of 17 years old. It was the boat that won the BOC Challenge and it was such an honor to sail on this boat. I was excited and happy to be able to sail beside my hero. Yukoh Tada in my eyes was a hero. He was the first Japanese to win an ocean race around the world. When I saw his feat, I knew I wanted to meet him directly and ask him how he did to prepare such a great campaign. I found his phone number in the phone book in Tokyo train station and called him tirelessly to try to find the secret behind the man. He never answered, one day at 4 in the morning, he answered his phone. I was surprised he answered so early in the morning, but after hearing his story, it all made sense. He was a taxi driver, and came home at that time. He was a simple man like anyone else, and did a simple job to be able to do what he loved. And that was sailing. So the first time I went sailing was with him, it was great to not only get to meet and to know the man who I idolized for so long!"

How and why did you decide you wanted to be involved in ocean racing?

"It is a great mean of travelling across the world, and to meet and make friends from all around the world".

At what point exactly did this become the main focus for you?

"When I saw my mentor's winning BOC challenge, at the age of 17 years old, I realized that there was a way to travel around the world while sailing. It was something I never thought of but I knew this was the thing I wanted to do".

Which result or experience are you most proud of?

"My last Vendee Globe where I became the first Asian person to participate in the Vendee Globe. It was great to show the Japanese people that such a wonderful race existed!"


What do you see as your main quality?

"To always smile! (It is sometimes hard, but I try to smile all the time even in hard times). I find that smiles are infectious and people gather around people who smile most".

And your biggest shortcoming?

"Sea sickness... Even after 30 years of sailing, I still don't know how I can overcome this. If anyone has suggestions, I am open to it".

If you were an animal, what would you be?

"An Orca, because Orca's always smile, they seem to be family oriented and can easily travel through the oceans around the world".

If you were a plant, what would you be?

"A bamboo, because it grows tall and straight!"

If you were a film...?

"Forrest Gump, to never give up and be innocent at all times".

If you were a piece of music...?

"Classical Music, to flow like water through the oceans".

What is your favourite colour?

"Blue, like my eyes... No, I wish... Blue like the oceans!".

What do you dream of that would make you happiest?

"Being able to be enjoying life amongst friends".

Who is your biggest hero?

"Yukoh Tada, his spirit is always with me".

Your favourite saying?

"Be the water, flow like it".

If you were not an ocean racer, what would you be?

"A professional Golfer! I think I have a talent in golf. Have I started at a young age, I am sure I would have become a good golfer. I enjoy to play golf from time to time".

My 2020 Vendee Globe

Your ambitions in the 2020 VG:

"To finish!"

Weaknesses (what could stop you achieving that goal apart from damage to your boat):

"I don't feel it as a weakness but I don't speak neither English nor French... The other weakness is being sea sick, but I will overcome the sea sickness after a few days sailing".

Your secret weapon:

"The Zen attitudes. Don't ask me how, it's just what I am".

What would you consider to be a successful VG for you?

"To finish the Vendee Globe and have a drink with all my team members and supporters!"

What do you want to share most of all?

"I want to show the Asian people across the world what a beautiful race the Vendee Globe is. And also, I want to share to all people the importance of never giving up".

Describe the VG for you in three words

"Big / Exciting / Earthly"

Three stand out images you have of the VG:

"Alain Gautier's first Vendee Globe (This made me want to go around the world and become the youngest person to do so at the time) / The great race by Ellen MacArthur (I think everyone was surprised to see such a small lady who fought a good fight against famous sailors. It gave us a hope also that not only men can compete) / The pontoon start channel during my last Vendee Globe (I felt the energy from all these people cheering you at the start. It is hard to describe in words but all my Japanese supporters who came to the start of the last Vendee Globe had tears in their eyes)".

Which skipper inspires you?

"My mentor, Yukoh Tada and his infectious smile".

What would you not go around the world without?

"The small shrine in my boat".

Bonus question:

"I am looking forward to go around the world with my brand-new boat DMG MORI Global One!"

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