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Germany's Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) finishes fourth in Retour à La Base

by Retour à La Base 10 Dec 2023 07:05 PST 10 December 2023
IMOCA Malizia - Seaexplorer skipper Boris Herrmann is taking 4th place during arrivals of the sailing race Retour à La Base, in Lorient, France, on December 10) © Jean-Louis Carli / Alea / Retour à La Base

When he emerged from a breezy, wet, challenging Bay of Biscay this Sunday afternoon to conclude his 3.500 miles solo race from Martinique, German skipper Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) secured fourth place on the Retour à La Base. He crossed the finish line at 12:02:41hrs UTC for an elapsed time of 9d 20h 02m 41s. His delta to race winner Yoann Richomme (Paprec-Arkéa) is 19h 58m 53s and he finishes 12h 19min 20s behind Britain's third placed Sam Goodchild (For The Planet).

After racing on the crewed around the world race earlier this year and finishing fifth with Will Harris on the outward double-handed race to Martinique, the Transat Jacques Vabre, before he went back to singlehanded race Herrmann talked pre-start of fleeting moments of self-doubt coupled to his hunger to return to solo mode.

But in fact Germany's most popular sailor has conclusively proven he has the boat, the aptitude, the resilience and the mindset to perform on the next edition and go more than one place better than his 5th on the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe.

Herrmann was in the match from the start gun off Fort-de-France on Thursday 30th November. His choice of staying offshore of the fleet allowed him to lead on the short leg to the Diamond Rock and set him up for the long northwards climb to the train of Atlantic depressions. In the top 10 on the ascent as soon as the winds built Malizia-Seaexplorer made gains and when French skipper Seb Simon (Groupe Dubreuil) had to pitstop into Flores in the Azores with a power blackout, Herrmann moved up to fourth.

Minutes after he crossed the finish line he gybed and his mainsail split in half from leech to luff. 'I must have damaged it last night I think' he remarked on the pontoon at Lorient's La Base which is home to Herrmann's IMOCA. With winds to 30kts, big seas and quite a lot of marine traffic, the skipper from Hamburg was pleased to be safely on the dock. His biggest problem was caused by his cockpit drains passing water into the boat rather than evacuating it, requiring many hours of baling out.

On the dock, enjoying a well earned beer - locally brewed for the race - he said, "I'm very satisfied with my race, I just had a little technical problem and a lot of water that was coming into the boat all the time, and I had to bail out a lot so I'm a little more tired than usual on finishing, but otherwise everything was fine."

"I was a little in the red at one point with all my technical problems, so I have a lot of short naps, I think the fatigue will hit me this afternoon. The last 200 miles, there was a lot of traffic and strong wind, and I must have damaged my mainsail, since it tore right after my arrival. I was lucky it didn't happen to me in the Azores like it did for Thomas Ruyant."

He continued, "I am quite happy with the race, the boat goes very well downwind, I always felt like without pushing too hard I had the speed to stay with the others around me. And that is very encouraging for the Vendée Globe, it is never nose diving, it does not throw me around too much. I am very happy with the boat. The boat certainly could win the Vendée Globe, whether the skipper can is for you to judge!"

On his first solo race since last year's Route du Rhum when he very much nursed his, then, brand new boat to Guadeloupe, Herrmann was clearly content, "It felt a little bit rusty on the first few days and then in the last couple of days it felt a bit more normal again and especially going into this hemisphere here it was a bit more like the Southern Ocean. I felt happy this time, no loneliness like I did feel before, so I am happy."

He finished:

"I think I am happy with my course and my speed in general, certainly I am competitive with the pack. I think we will slowly progress with the boat, step by step over the next couple of races. We will work on the reliability a bit more. I had this problem with the vertical cockpit drains which are supposed to suck the water out but because the fairing underneath was ripped off it was pushing the water in and so I had to try and seal that while a lot of water pressure was coming in. That was the main issue."

4 - Malizia - Seaexplorer in figures:

  • Finished: 10/12/2023 12:02:41 UTC
  • Elapsed time: 9d 20h 02min 41s
  • Delta to 1st: 19h 58min 53s
  • Delta to finisher ahead: 12h 19min 20s
  • Theoretical course: 3 497.42 nm / 14.82 nds
  • Real course: 4 490.12 nm / 19.02 nds

On course:

Briton Sam Davis (Initiatives Coeur) was due to finish in sixth place in the mid afternoon.

Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) finished fifth

The next international skipper to finish should be Pip Hare (Medallia) during Monday afternoon or evening, lying in 11th at 18 miles behind tenth placed Romain Attanasio (Fortinet-Best Western)

It is big out here, big winds, big seas, big emotions."

Pip Hare said this afternoon, "It has been another epic morning for me, I seem to keep having them. My choice was to follow up to the north to the others ahead of me or to take my own route inside the (Cape Finisterre) TSS, which was a bit nervy, the sea state was pretty big in there, but it seemed to work out. I am at the top of the TSS now and have just gybed east to go in to Bay of Biscay and of course there are a lot of ships to avoid now, them coming out of the TSS and me overtaking them and then gybing to meet them again, coming back at them. I think they probably have their heads in their hands going 'what the hell is going on' I have been working really hard with not much sleep. I have this ball of stress at the bottom of my stomach, I think I have come out ahead of Clarisse who has a weapon fast boat and it would be amazing if I can stay ahead of her, first time solo on this modified boat, but I am so worried something will break or I will do something wrong, just the usual stress, I feel it. It is big out here, big winds, big seas, big emotions."

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