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Figaro veteran Nils Palmieri joins fellow Swiss Oliver Heer for Défi Azimut Sailing Challenge

by Oliver Heer Ocean Racing 17 Sep 10:23 PDT 19 September 2023
Nils Palmieri joins team Oliver Heer Ocean Racing for the 2023 IMOCA Series © Oliver Heer Ocean Racing

Figaro veteran Nils Palmieri joins fellow Swiss sailor Oliver Heer for Défi Azimut Sailing Challenge. Oliver Heer, the latest offshore Swiss sailor to take on the IMOCA circuit as preparation for the Vendee Globe, will be joined by fellow Swiss sailor Nils Palmieri for the Défi Azimut.

Nils is an extremely experienced offshore sailor. He joins Ollie just days after finishing the 54th Edition of another extremely challenging solo offshore race; La Solitaire du Figaro. He claimed an impressive 2nd place in the first leg, but a frustrating wind shut-down saw him pushed down the results in the second leg and he was unable to beat his result of 6th overall last year.

Nils won the Double-Handed Transat in 2021 and previously claimed 5th place in the Transat Jacque Vabres with Bertrand Delesne on his Class40. Based in Brittany, France, the Défi Azimut is a unique event in the IMOCA globe series and the build up to the Vendee Globe race next year, offering a mixture of speed runs, a 48 hour offshore race and a coastal race around the Isle D'Groix. Throughout these three events of the Défi Azimut, Nils will be mentoring Ollie and sharing some of his expertise and experience as well as strengthening their partnership ahead of the doublehanded TJV race in October.

Ollie competed in the Défi Azimut last year and was delighted to claim the accolade of the fastest non-foiling IMOCA in the speed runs and third overall in the Tour De Groix race after leading most of the way. For Ollie, this race represents the first turn of the wheel, he laughs "It is nice to be going to an event I have competed in before. Although it doesn't guarantee anything, I have a better idea of what to expect and a previous result to beat! Plus having Nils on board is going to be fantastic. He is an exceptionally talented sailor and I am looking to learn from him as much as possible over the coming weeks."

What are you most looking forward to Ollie?
"Well for me it has to be the opportunity to be sailing with Nils. I have respected him for such a long time, and he has been incredibly successful in both single and double-handed sailing so I know there will be lots I can learn from him."

Which of the 3 elements of the Défi Azimut do you enjoy the most?
"One of the things which is so appealing about the Défi Azimut is the variety of racing styles covered, so the mix of racing style itself is the best bit. Although last year, I have to admit, although nerve racking, I immensely enjoyed the speed runs as it was the first time I went head to head against the IMOCA's on a 1 mile course, and I was the fastest non-foiling IMOCA! This year, naturally I will be aiming to retain that position, which also adds a little bit of pressure on me."

How are you feeling about your boat and your own preparation?
"I am delighted to say that the boat is in excellent shape. The Rolex Fastnet Race just six weeks ago was very windy and those punishing conditions provided a great opportunity to test the boat, and she stood up to the challenge very well. I am really grateful to have such a strong technical team supporting me. I am working hard to improve my physical condition, but admit, it is not quite where I will want it to be ahead of the Vendee Globe, but for now I am more focussed on working with my mental performance coach, Dr Wolfgang Jenwein, to build my mental resilience and prepare myself for solo sailing."

Nils Palmieri adds, "I am thrilled to join forces with the Swiss team Oliver Heer Ocean Racing and be part of a team that shares my passion for offshore sailing. I'm looking forward to racing on the IMOCA, contributing my skills and working closely with the team to achieve remarkable feats on the open waters."

The Défi Azimut starts in Lorient on Tuesday 19th September 2023, with a record 36 IMOCA entrants expected to compete.

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