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Boris Herrmann in Malizia - SeaExplorer finishes second in the New York Vendée-Les Sables d'Olonne

by Vendee Globe 9 Jun 11:24 PDT 9 June 2024
Boris Herrmann on Malizia - SeaExplorer finishes 2nd in the New York Vendée-Les Sables d'Olonne solo race across the North Atlantic © Jean Louis Carli / Alea

Germany's top ocean racer Boris Herrmann secured second place on the 3200 nautical miles New York Vendée - Les Sables d'Olonne solo race across the North Atlantic when he crossed the finish line at 04:52 hrs (French time).

His race in figures:

  • Finish time: 14:52:32 (UTC)
  • Race time: 10d 20h 52min 32s
  • Distance covered: 3 169.88 nautical miles
  • Average speed (on the great circle route): 12.15 knots

His First Reaction

"Congratulations to Charlie! I've been lucky to sail a lot downwind and have had a great northern experience. I'm very happy to arrive this Sunday afternoon with the sun shining, to see everyone in the channel. It's magnificent! Thank you to everyone for being here, for being in Les Sables d'Olonne!"

His Race

On the last big ocean race before this winter's Vendée Globe, the skipper of Malizia SeaExplorer establishes himself as one of the podium favourites for the legendary non stop race round the world race by today adding a successive second position to the one he took on the westwards solo race from Lorient to New York earlier last month. Arriving in the USA he finished only 2 hrs and 19 minutes adrift, remaining a threat to winner Yoann Richomme until the final miles of the race.

Herrmann and winner Charlie Dalin, who finished last night at 1144hrs local time, were the only two skippers to break out of a low pressure trough one week ago, a tactical escape which allowed them to build a big lead on their pursuers.

Bidding for victory the German skipper took a very challenging northerly route which required him to fight through very light winds for many hours in order to get to fast downwind conditions on the NE and E side of a high pressure system. His audacious choice, yielding speeds between 20 and 25kts at times showed promise even until yesterday, winner Dalin admitting to having last minute concerns even at 24 hours from the finish line.

With an ocean racing career stretching back to a first Mini Transat in 2001, then including The Transat in Class 40 in 2008, the same westwards race he has just completed, Herrman has now made three IMOCA podium finishes in two years after co-skippering his Malizia team to third place on the crewed The Ocean Race, the crewed round the world race during which they won historic event's longest ever, most difficult Southern Ocean stage from Cape Town to Itajai, Brazil.

Celebrating his 43rd birthday on the eve of the start from New York, Herrmann was in the match from the get go, always electing to be in the northernmost group. The first few days of the race were especially challenging as the winds were very unstable as the combined effects of the east flowing Gulf Stream current and its heat, the moving weather front and mixed up weather systems.

But Herrmann retained his customary analytical inner calm and put his trust in his routing and - after many hours of study - combined with a measure of intuition - to head north around and across the huge anticyclone which was dominating the North Atlantic, playing to the strengths of his VPLP designed IMOCA which is orientated most towards the strong winds and big seas of the Big South where he considers the Vendée Globe can be won.

Arriving into the French home of the Vendée Globe against a backdrop of the final day of European elections might be considered significant considering Herrmann international outlook. As comfortable speaking French, English and Spanish as his native tongue, he Is at the spearhead of the drive to make solo and short handed ocean racing more international and is a passionate, driven environmental campaigner with his program A Race We Must Win - Climate Action Now operating on multiple different fronts.

And while he has come to enjoy most of solo ocean racing's challenges, he cherishes company, admitting to have grown to love his experience racing round the world with his Malizia crew but equally racing double handed. His fifth place on the last Vendée Globe was as much the result of his ingrained consummate seamanship - striving to deliver high daily averages, playing the long ultra marathon game rather than 'crash and burn' - after learning so much from record passages with luminaries Giovanni Soldini of Italy and Frances Joyon with whom Herrmann sailed two Jules Verne attempts, missing the record by two days in 2012.

Interview on the dock with Andi Robertson

Second placed Boris Herrmann: "I think I really like to have done a choice on my own"

After taking second place on the New York Vendée Les Sables d'Olonne solo Transat race, arriving back across the finish line at 1653hrs local time on a breezy, sunny early summer Sunday evening it was a relaxed, relieved German skipper Boris Herrmann who was given a warm, appreciative welcome back into the famous channel.

At the Vendée Globe dock where he was met by race winner Charlie Dalin who had finished 17hrs and 08 minutes earlier, crossing just before midnight, he was greeted by the Vendée VIPS, guests, friends and family and the media.

Before posing for dozens of 'selfies' and chatting to many of the race fans of all ages who had come out to greet him, the popular German answered questions.

Most people, it seemed, wanted him to talk about his strategic choice to the far north of the course.

Why did you go north and did it pay off?

We had this front that we needed to escape from and I was not quite sure if there was still a risk that the front could catch us. It was a case of bearing away more to go north to be as far away from the front as possible, and that brought me to a different position for when we made the big strategic choice that I thought the North route would be better for me. And I observed it a little while and asked myself if maybe I needed to review this decision a little bit, but I kept on and a few days later I was in it and I could not change anyway.

Did you doubt that option at all?

I doubted it a little bit at some stage because it just looked crazy on the chart, but scientifically I think it was correct and also when I took the decision it was the shorter route. The route for Charlie looked more direct but it has more zig zags as well and at some stages the routing had me beat Charlie and had me with a much more direct route around the high pressure and not do all these gybes and some models showed the wind just 10 degrees turned but that was enough to have gone on a direct route and I would have gained almost a day.

Do you feel stronger for having succeeded?

I think I really liked to have done a choice on my own. I could of course have just kind of tacked and been behind Charlie and be like 100 miles behind but I think that would have been a less exciting race, for myself included, and I was keen to sail more downwind and experience the north with the transitions. I am happy with my decisions.

Would you have made such a bold choice on the Vendée Globe or was this the race to just try it?

It was for this race to try, maybe in the Vendée you would manage the risk a little bit differently but it is hard to say.

How did these races prepare you for the Vendée Globe, was one more about speed and one strategy, or maybe about confidence?

Both races were great preparation for the Vendée Globe. The race to New York was a lot about being in contact with other boats and so that was good because I could see that my speed was OK most of the time and then on the way back I was very alone in the north which is a feeling you can have sometimes in the Vendée Globe, really alone with no boats around you for 100s of miles and so I could train a little bit, remember this feeling, it is not so easy sometimes and so this was a bit of 'this is how the Vendée Globe could feel like."

And what condition are the boat and the skipper in?

The boat and skipper are in good condition. We had pretty much no technical problems, almost none, and I am especially that my mainsail held together as it has already done The Ocean Race and three Transatlantic races so it has served very well. No problems?

And what is up next, are you looking forwards to the Vendée Globe and how will you prepare?

I am really looking forwards to the Vendée Globe, with this race we achieved what I was hoping for in having the confidence to move into the summer and have locked down our choices with no doubts, to have made all the right choices, service the boat a little bit and pretty much leave everything as it is.

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