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Oliver Heer finishes brutal Transat CIC race, keeping his Vendée Globe dream alive

by Oliver Heer Ocean Racing 17 May 10:28 PDT
Oliver Heer at Transat CIC Race © West Media / Oliver Heer Ocean Racing

In a display of extraordinary resilience, Swiss skipper Oliver Heer has triumphantly clawed his way across the finish line oft he Transat CIC race, keeping his dream of participation in the Vendée Globe 2024 alive.

Crossing the finish line at 00:19 (Central European Time) on Friday17th May, Swiss Sailor Oliver Heer finally completed the solo transatlantic race in 18 days, 10 hours, 49 minutes and 32 seconds. Heer's triumph is a demonstration of resilience and tenacity, pushing both performance and human endurance boundaries to their limit.

The Transat CIC, notorious for its punishing course and unforgiving weather, proved true to its reputation for Heer. After a promising start, disaster struck on day six. A catastrophic autopilot failure triggered an uncontrolled gybe in heavy seas. Heer's boat was slammed upside down, and pinned down by waves, leaving him with minor injuries and his vessel in disarray. Sails were damaged and electrical systems were fried, leaving Heer unable to use his navigation and communication systems, without an autopilot or water-maker.

Heer entered "survival mode" for the next 24 hours. Through sheer determination he wrestled control of his battered boat and jury-rigged a temporary wiring solution from his solar panels, restoring limited power and a glimmer of hope. Yet, the relentless challenges continued. Heer spent several frustrating days becalmed in a freezing fog bank, completely stuck and unable to make any progress towards the finish.

When the wind finally returned, it was a ferocious30-40 knots. Without sun to power the autopilot Heer was forced to hand-steer through the days and nights. Unable to sleep or eat, Heer was close to exhaustion, his physical and mental reserves pushed to the limit.

"This wasn't a race in the end," Heer reflected, "It was a battle, a fight to get both myself and my boat to the finish line safely. But more than that, it was a valiant effort to secure my position in the Vendée Globe, which is my ultimate goal. Finishing the Transat CIC to log the miles for the Vendée Globe selection is a crucial step towards that."

With a vision to become the first Swiss German to compete in the Vendee Globe, Heer's fight keeps this dream alive. Heer is one of 41 skippers vying for just 40 coveted spots on the start line of this iconic, solo, non-stop circumnavigation. The miles earned in The Transat CIC keep Heer off the bottom of the selection table.

However, for Heer, pursuing your passion means no time to rest. He now has less than two weeks to repair his boat and regroup before setting sail once again in New York Vendée, a return transatlantic race starting on May 29th.

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