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New York Vendée: Boris Herrmann's final solo challenge before the Vendée Globe

by Team Malizia 28 May 11:58 BST
Boris Herrmann is about to embark on the final major test before the Vendée Globe © Dani Devine / Team Malizia

Boris Herrmann is about to embark on the final major test before the Vendée Globe race next November. Starting on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 at 2:00 pm local time, the Team Malizia skipper will compete solo in a transatlantic race covering 3,200 nautical miles from New York back to France, against 27 IMOCA sailors.

"Here we go again", said Team Malizia's skipper Boris Herrmann two days before the start of the New York Vendée race. "We depart from New York on 29 May at 2:00 pm local time, crossing the Atlantic solo. With 28 boats, almost the entire Vendée Globe fleet will be heading to Les Sables d'Olonne, France, which is also the start and finish port of the Vendée Globe." The 3,200 nautical mile long race is also the last major confrontation between the IMOCA skippers before the Vendée Globe, also known as the Everest of the Seas, at the end of the year.

"I want to race as many solo miles as I can", added Boris Herrmann. "And if a race is on the calendar, I want to compete in it. I have already validated my Vendée Globe qualification and don't technically 'need' to do the race, and not all skippers are participating in both transatlantic races this spring. But I'm just keen to be out there and sail as much as I can before the round-the-world challenge. The aim is to perform well in the New York Vendée and to further build and strengthen confidence and trust in the boat and in myself. The better the position, and the better the race goes overall, the more confidence it gives us, and the fewer questions we will have to face."

The Malizia - Seaexplorer skipper commented: "Coming to New York has been a long-held dream for us, and for me personally as well. I love New York. We have very special memories of our journey here with Greta Thunberg in 2019. This time, we organised a major panel discussion focusing on marine protection and, of course, climate protection. That was definitely the highlight of our stay here. It was a long time in the making and took place at the German House within sight of the UN building, with world-renowned oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle and other very famous marine conservation personalities. The event was a great success, and the discussions on the High Seas and how to protect them were fascinating. The rest of the time was, of course, spent taking care of the boat and doing the usual pre-race events, ranging from guest sailing to the Vendée Liberty exhibition race, and from interviews to various race briefings."

The boats competing in the upcoming transat are currently moored in different harbours in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. They will all meet offshore and cross the virtual start line, which is located 90 nautical miles offshore, on Wednesday 29 May at 2:00 pm local time (20:00 French & German time). This distance to the coast means that no chase boats with camera crews will film the start on the water. Fans can still follow the action through a live stream of the Malizia - Seaexplorer cockpit camera, which will be broadcasted on Team Malizia's YouTube channel, as well as through a live show on the race organiser's YouTube channel with French and English commentary. The race tracker will update every minute within a 5 nautical mile radius of the start line and every 5 minutes for approximately the first four hours of the race.

"The start is far offshore to also minimise the risk of colliding with marine animals", explained Boris Herrmann. "You often see whales in the bay of New York, which is something very few people know. I've personally seen whales here, almost within sight of Manhattan. And that's something we obviously want to avoid, which is why the start is far offshore. However, it is very deep there and not easy to organise logistics for a race start, which is why it will be virtual. But with modern GPS technology, it should work quite well. This is my first time doing a virtual start, we'll see, there's a first time for everything!"

Regarding the preparations for the upcoming race, the German sailor said: "The team is, as always, well-prepared. The boat is in perfect condition. But our team worked very hard to get here. Malizia - Seaexplorer arrived in great condition in New York but got struck by lightning the next day. It happened as the shore crew was moving her from the honours pontoon of the Transat CIC race to our allocated marina. Thankfully everybody onboard was safe and unarmed. Unfortunately, several electrical components got damaged and had to be replaced. The thunderstorm was completely unexpected and it was such an unlucky thing to happen. But our technical team worked very hard to assess the damage, to organise and do the repairs, which was complicated and stressful, but now we are ready. We've experienced highs and lows together, and the only thing this blow actually managed was to make our Team Malizia spirit even stronger!"

The Malizia - Seaexplorer skipper added: "Will Harris and I are now taking a closer look at the weather. On Tuesday, we'll have a small team lunch, maybe a little toast for my birthday, and then I'll head out at sea. That's going to be 24 hours before the actual race start because we don't want to sail these 90 miles to the start line under time pressure. We want to respect a slow speed, also for the marine protection zone, and therefore many boats will set off early and cover the distance at a slower pace."

Weather conditions expected for this race are somewhat unusual. "Normally, one would hope to catch a strong low-pressure system and sail relatively quickly East across the Atlantic, mostly with a following wind and heavy seas", detailed Boris Herrmann. "Conditions can be quite similar to the Vendée Globe. However, this is not likely the case now. We are probably going to have lighter winds and be sailing a lot upwind. Weather forecasts are quite unreliable at the moment."

Boris Herrmann commented: "This is also due to the geographic zone. This is a cyclogenesis zone where low-pressure systems form, making predictions harder for weather models than an area in the middle of the Atlantic. Broadly speaking, we're sailing approximately 3,200 nautical miles from New York to France, with the Great Banks and the cold sea regions in the north. They are marked as an exclusion zone clearly visible on the race tracker; it is a virtual boundary that we are not allowed to cross. The Azores are also a major obstacle; hopefully we will stay well to the North, otherwise, we have a clear run to sail East. We expect to arrive in Les Sables d'Olonne no earlier than the 7th of June and no later than the 10th of June. Maybe even perfectly timed for World Ocean Day on 8th June!"

Team Malizia's A Race We Must Win - Climate Action Now! mission is only possible due to the strong and long-lasting commitment from its seven main partners: Schütz, the Yacht Club de Monaco, EFG International, Zurich Group Germany, Kuehne+Nagel, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, and Hapag-Lloyd. These partners band behind Team Malizia to support its campaign, each of them working towards projects in their own field to innovate around climate solutions.

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