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Boris ready to send it on the 'North Face'

Boris Herrmann, the 42 year old German skipper who finished fifth on the last Vendée Globe and captivated a huge mainstream audience in his native country, sharing his solo round the world adventure, is on great form as he contemplates taking on the historic, original Transat, the Transat CIC, across the North Atlantic.

For his robust, reliable VPLP design Malizia Sea Explorer, a Southern Oceans flying machine, which has already sailed round the globe on The Ocean Race, this will be already his boat’s fourth Transatlantic race. A winter refit has improved its upwind performance thanks to new foils and so Herrmann is itching to race the North Face route which he loves.


You look to be in good spirits Boris, this is a course you are relishing..

Well we had a good winter refit here with new foils. CDK did a really nice job to build them in a very short time and to deliver them on time so that we could do the training here. It has gained in performance compared to on The Ocean Race. The boat is in good shape, the team is in good shape, I don’t feel too much under pressure at all for this race. 

"Normally Charal should be way ahead.... two days ahead!"


Why is that?

Well it is a primarily upwind course and that is not too representative of the Vendee Globe. Normally Charal should be way ahead, two days ahead! (laughs) If you take the speed differential that we saw at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, they went upwind at around 21 knots and everyone else had around 18 or 19 knots and so to keep going like that for 60% of the race, they are very fast upwind, no doubt about it, especially with a breeze. So no one is too stressed about it because the Vendée Globe is 70% downwind.


And this race means a lot to you, you are a bit of scholar of ocean racing history and so you appreciate its history? Yes, I’m really excited to do this race, it’s a historical thing. And for me personally I started my professional career with this race, the Transat 2008 was my first  race which then started my career. A few years before, I had done the mini Transat but only when I was here first time I had my first sponsor.I did the class 40 Transat, It was from Plymouth to Marblehead. It was an amazing race, I came second and it was a really good race. And then there I met Giovanni Soldini because of that race, at that time he won that race. And after that we worked together for five years. I have very good memories, I spent a lot of time with Giovanni in New York, so I like New York and the city. I kept out of trouble, didn’t get arrested! Fun memories - I’m a jazz fan and went to all the Jazz Clubs and everything like that. We spent three months there, Christmas and New Year there. And after New Year’s Eve we left. We did the New York to San Francisco record after three months standby (?) that was just some of the really good memories. And I have good memories coming into these Nordic waters, another good memory was the Greta Voyage, that’s the last time I sailed East to West, Plymouth to New York. I sailed for thirteen days with Greta Thunberg, in 2019, with Will already in the preparation team and Pierre on board - that was an amazing experience.


And this is so different to racing to the Caribbean! Yes, I really like to sometimes get this Nordic light, the Nordic ambience and altitude. In fact you are more north than we go south in the Vendée Globe, I think the most south we go to is 57-58 degrees and here we go a bit further North. The cold is of course annoying but I like the clear, crisp air. I like the shape of the clouds they different, the colours are very clear and I encountered the sea fog, sea smoke it’s called, a special type of fog that you can encounter off the Labrador current in the Gulf stream where really warm and cold waters meet. There can be a very clean wall of very dense fog that goes up to about fifty metres and then it stops and looks like a wall.


And the weather is looking decent, no big kicking lying in wait out there…..

At the moment, we do some ensemble routing because it’s easy nowadays with the machines to just centre the models and do all kinds of simulations. It had looked like it could of been a binary north - south divide, in terms of options. But now the models are much more converging and there will be a lot of details to this, like it used to be. You encounter more than one system so you deal with that more or less. It’s a series of things you can do well or less well and then you get a second chance and another one, I think it can make it a little bit more even along the race course, hopefully!


And you have your 'solo racing head' on? Since the last Vendee, I have enjoyed the crewed sailing so so much. I have to really learn the ways of solo sailing. The crewed sailing you are well and truly off and someone takes good care of the boat. You switch right off. In crewed sailing when you are there, you are really there for the boat and you are not hesitating to spend the time and effort, you have the energy. In solo sailing, we have this permanent motion of managing our own energy and sleep and making compromises at sailing not relaxed so to speak but you have to be relaxed at some points so that you can sleep. I’ve got much worse at that (getting to sleep) because of the crewed sailing! In the crewed sailing we are such perfectionists! The Retour a La Base went quite well, I had this problem with the water in the cockpit, I had a problem with the broken cockpit drains and I didn’t sleep very well. So we made a better bunk, a suspended bunk with special stuff and I hope to be able to find a mindset that helps me to do well and sleep better.


Do you have a target result? The podium? Top five? Top ten?

I want to do as well as possible, I don’t like to express it in numbers too much, like most of us. But I think we can do it very well. We have a strong boat and in strong breeze it goes really fast upwind, faster now with the new foils definitely. I’m just very curious. I can’t tell how it will go, there are so many very strong competitors who worked hard last winter. Yannick Bestaven went to the Canary Islands and everyone has worked their own programmes to prepare. That’s what’s so brilliant about the IMOCA class. Where else do you have thirty or thirty five boats this well prepared for a race, hungry and eager to go. Everyone will also send it quite hard for this. If there is any time to find weak points in myself and the boat, this is the time to try. I think everyone will go pretty full-on.