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Intense racing until the finish line - Boris Herrmann and Will Harris seventh in the TJV

by Media Team Malizia 19 Nov 15:38 PST 19 November 2023
Boris Herrmann and Will Harris finished the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 in seventh place © Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

As close as it gets to a photo finish in IMOCA racing - that is how intense it was in today's Transat Jacques Vabre race arrival in the bay of Fort-de-France, when Team Malizia's Boris Herrmann and Will Harris crossed the finish line in seventh place, only minutes behind some of their closest competitors.

Boris Herrmann and Will Harris finished the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 in seventh place after an exciting match race around Martinique which came right down to the finish line. The Team Malizia duo crossed the finish line in the bay of Fort-de-France at 17:31:03 UTC (13:31 local time) only a few boat lengths away from Justine Mettraux and Julien Villion onboard TEAMWORK.NET, who grabbed sixth place 1 minute and 5 seconds prior.

The Malizia - Seaexplorer crew raced 5,319 nautical miles across the Atlantic from Le Havre, Normandy, to the French island in the Caribbean in 12 days, 9 hours, 1 minute, and 3 seconds. They arrived only 11 hours, 28 minutes, and 32 seconds after race winner Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière on the For People IMOCA boat.

The podium places had been decided in the early hours of Sunday morning with Paprec Arkéa, skippered by Yoann Richhomme and Team Malizia's Ocean Race crew member Yann Eliès, in second place, and Sam Goodchild and Antoine Koch's For The Planet in third place. The suspense, however, kept on intensifying into midday. Four boats coming from the northern and southern route, including Malizia - Seaexplorer, battled it out until the finish line, crossing it in just over 30 minutes of each other.

"We were contemplating whether to sail the northern route in the first days, as it seemed that it could be the faster option", explained Boris Herrmann. "We decided that South was the way to go, as we wanted to race closely to the majority of the fleet. Besides hoping to win by taking this route, one of our main objectives was to stick with the majority of the fleet - we had already covered a lot of miles on our boat, but we hadn't really been able to measure ourselves against the most recent IMOCA yachts yet. We showed that we are strong competitors, that our boat is fast in downwind conditions, and can be strong in the Vendée Globe. In that sense, we achieved our sporting goal for this race. Our top 7 finish is satisfying, but we think we learned that we can improve even further and have the results of upcoming races reflect that."

The Team Malizia duo had eagerly started the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre after a 9-day delay to huge storms rolling across the Atlantic. With 40 IMOCA yachts on the start line and Malizia - Seaexplorer facing off against some of her newly built competitors for the first time, the race was guaranteed to be exciting - and as it turns out, delivered exactly that from start to finish!

Boris Herrmann and Will Harris set off in 20 to 25 knots of wind with a complicated sea state, sailing in rough upwind conditions. The first 24 hours of the race saw many IMOCA casualties very early on with top wind speeds of 45 knots and six boats having to retire or stop for repairs. On day 2, the Team Malizia duo faced electronics issues with the autopilot not receiving all the necessary data to function and then the second autopilot also not working properly. That made it very challenging to continue sailing as these boats are not designed to be hand-steered for long periods of time. Boris Herrmann and Will Harris had to stop the boat to try to reconfigure the data sources, and after even contemplating if a stop in Spain was necessary, the team managed to fix the issues and continue racing albeit losing six places in the rankings.

As the boats made their way South there were two routes to decide between, the Southerly route down through the Canary Islands or the Westerly route taking the boats through the Azores. A group with only two foiling boats led by Justine Mettraux split from the fleet, sailing West to take the North route. "In no other regatta in the world, could we have had such a North/South split over more than 1000 nautical miles and then arrive so close together", commented Boris Herrmann. "I think we were 40 miles behind Justine and Julien when they went West, and now we arrived just over 1 minute behind them! We are happy with our decision."

It was really nice to do this race again with Boris", said co-skipper Will Harris. "We have such a natural way of sailing together now and we have a lot of trust in each other as well. He can go into the next races with a lot of confidence in the boat. We've shown now that it can keep up with these with the new generation of foilers and if it makes the right choices, he's really got a nice performance, a good shot at podiums in the next races. So I think it's a really good place to be."

"With Sam Davies in fourth place, Justine Mettraux grabbing sixth place, and Clarisse Crémer maybe taking ninth place soon, it looks like three female skippers will be in the top 10 of this year's Transat Jacques Vabre. This is a really, really fantastic result and shows the level in the class", added Boris Herrmann. "The competition is fierce, the boats and crews are strong, anything can happen over the upcoming races. That is really motivating and great for our sport, I'm excited about what's next."

After celebrating the arrival with the team and taking a few days rest surrounded by his family, Boris Herrmann will be back on board Malizia - Seaexplorer to compete in the solo return race "Retour à La Base" starting on 30th November 2023, in just over a week's time.

Team Malizia's A Race We Must Win - Climate Action Now! mission is only possible due to the strong and long-lasting commitment from its seven main partners: Schütz, the Yacht Club de Monaco, EFG International, Zurich Group Germany, Kuehne+Nagel, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, and Hapag-Llyod. These partners band behind Team Malizia to support its campaign, each of them working towards projects in their own field to innovate around climate solutions.

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