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Swiss solo sailor Oliver Heer's battle with The Transat CIC Race

by Oliver Heer Ocean Racing 9 May 05:52 PDT
Swiss solo sailor Oliver Heer's battle with The Transat CIC Race © Oliver Heer Ocean Racing

Swiss-German solo sailor, Oliver Heer, is facing a gruelling personal battle in the Transat CIC race, a notoriously difficult solo transatlantic crossing.

While the leading boats have already crossed the finish line just outside of New York, Heer faces several more days at sea as he continues to fight through a series of setbacks and unforgiving weather conditions.

The race began in pleasant conditions on April 28th in Lorient, France, but quickly turned fierce. Heer battled strong winds, heavy seas, and equipment failures, including a dramatic autopilot malfunction that knocked his boat down causing significant damage as well as minor injury.

During this knock-down, Heer lost all power, forcing him to rely on paper charts and traditional navigation techniques, using old weather data. He lost all onboard communications systems and the signal on the satellite phone has been patchy making communication with his shore team frustrating and difficult. Additionally, he was unable to use his autopilot, or crucially, his water-maker and was down to his final 1 litre.

After working relentlessly for 24 hours, Heer, 35 has managed to rig a temporary bypass solution to provide power to the boat using his onboard solar panels during the day when there is sunlight. But Heer is forced to hand steer the boat both day and night which is exhausting and prevents him from sleeping.

During the knockdown, Heer also suffered sail damage whilst battling to regain control in over 40knots of breeze at night. He is currently repairing his broken mainsail battens to help regain sailing speed towards the finish.

Whilst Heer is in regular contact with his technical team, he still has to handle all of these challenges alone. Despite this, Heer's spirit although fragile is not broken. He has displayed exceptional resourcefulness and determination, repaired his boat and sails, and is adapting to the electrical black-out and new regime onboard.

"So far, this has been the toughest race of my life," said Heer. "Congratulations to winner Yoann Richomme on Paprec Arkea and all the sailors who have finished. I know I'll be at sea for a few more days and the weather forecast alternates between zero and 50 knots which isn't helpful, but I'm determined to finish."

"We're all extremely proud of Ollie's resilience in this race," said Theresa, Heer's wife and team manager, "While it hasn't been the race we planned, and been extremely stressful for the shore team, Ollie and the team are gaining invaluable experience for the Vendée Globe. The challenges he's facing now will only make him a stronger sailor in the future."

For Heer, quitting is not an option. Completing The Transat CIC race is a vital part of his campaign, securing the miles to guarantee a position on the start line of the Vendee Globe, the toughest race of them all, in November 2024. He is fighting to keep alive his dream of becoming this first Swiss-German to compete in the Vendee Globe.

Heer will continue to make his way to the finish line, located 100 miles offshore between New York and Newport Rhode Island, where the aim his team can turn the boat around in time to start the New York Vendee return race from New York to Les Sables d'Olonne, France on 29 May.

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