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Herrmann Finishes top 5 of Vendee Globe

by Ellon Labana


By Henrylito D. Tacio

Photos courtesy of Boris Herrmann

World-class offshore sailor Boris Herrmann did it!

Last January 28, Herrmann sailed across the finish line off Les Sables-d’Olonne after exactly 80 days, 20 hours, 59 minutes, and 45 seconds at sea, making him the first German skipper in the history of the Vendée Globe to complete this race.

A non-stop, unassisted, single-handed round the world race via the three capes, the Vendee Globe is the Holy Grail for solo sailors.  Setting sail from Les Sables d’Olonne every four years, the ninth chapter of this reference race started last November last year.

After a total of 28 448 miles sailed, Herrmann’s Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco finished as the fifth boat in the fleet, 4 hours 34 minutes behind Frenchman Thomas Ruyant.

However, time credits for three skippers as a result of their involvement in the rescue of sailor Kevin Escoffier in the South Atlantic still caused some shifts in the final ranking.

Yannick Bestaven overtook Charlie Dalin in the classification after calculated time and is thus the overall winner of the 9th edition of the Vendée Globe. 

18 10 2019 Boris Herrmann portrait for the Fastnet 2019 onboard the IMOCA 60 Malizia.

Despite the unfortunate collision with a fishing trawler last night, just 90 nautical miles from the finish, Herrmann has mastered his non-stop circumnavigation with flying colors, fulfilled his personal dream of a top 5 finish, has taken many thousands of fans virtually onboard every day and has eventually made history in the German sailing sport. 

After his arrival, Herrmann said: I have accomplished the adventure. It’s been a long time, more than 20 years, that I’ve been dreaming of this, it was a childhood dream. The Vendée Globe is something extraordinary. I came here to Les Sables d’Olonne to see several starts of the race. And now it’s done! It feels really good to fulfill this dream!”

According to him, the race was a team effort, including the boat preparation. 

“Everything around the race (was a team effort), and our mission was also about science and education,” he said. “It’s nice to have all these people here now and to celebrate together. That’s the best moment of the race.”

He said the incident that happened the night before “was heart-breaking.”

“But in the end,” he stressed, “we still finished and in a good position. The damage on the boat is all repairable, there is nothing structural.”

The Vendee Globe has definitely changed him, he said.

“I don’t know yet in what way, but it has certainly taught me a lot about trust, trusting in people and the boat, trusting in time, those good things come with time,” he said. “You have to wait 80 days for the finish and for all these nice emotions.”

“It is an extraordinary achievement,” long-term friend and co-founder of team Malizia, Pierre Casiraghi, commented.  “His handling of the big damage he suffered last night shows what a great sailor Boris is. He had all the qualities you need to do a great race, he did more than that. It’s just extraordinary, I am very proud of him.”

Over the last days on the North Atlantic, the skippers gave once more everything they’ve got, studying their navigation down to the last detail. Close to the Azores, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2), Charlie Dalin (Apivia), and Herrmann opted for an easterly route, while Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) sailed further north to take advantage of stronger winds from a low-pressure system. Later, Louis also set course to the north. 

In the early hours of the last day of racing, Herrmann and Dalin finally chose the shorter southern route, past Cape Finisterre and the Spanish north coast, in order to sail from there on one tack in westerly winds to Les Sables-d’Olonne.

The tactic reportedly worked out for Herrmann.  He was safely in third place and had a good chance of an even better placing until the collision with the fishing trawler just before the finish interrupted his navigation at high speeds.

“Overall, Boris sailed a smart race,” said Will Harris, co-skipper of Team Malizia.  “He has done some round-the-world sailing and his experience helped him a lot in this Vendée Globe. In addition, Boris is the skipper who has covered the most nautical miles onboard his IMOCA. He had the ability to get on the podium without ever saying it out loud.”  

Herrmann did more than just sailing during the race. During the circumnavigation, he collected valuable oceanographic data around the clock with the help of the autonomously operating laboratory on board and forwarded the data to the scientists from the Max Plack Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Geomar in Kiel, and Ifremer in Brest.

Among other parameters, carbon dioxide levels, temperature, and salinity were measured continuously at the sea surface level over a distance of almost 28,500 nautical miles, so that for the first time the scientific community has access to an extensive data set even from the most remote regions of the earth.

Up until now, there was virtually no data from the Southern Ocean. Thus, the scientific mission in the course of the Vendée Globe was a complete success. The measured parameters enable scientists to better understand the effects of climate change on the ocean and at the same time determine how the ocean moderates climate change.

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