Boris Herrmann will be the first German ever to start the Vendée Globe in November 2020, but when he does it will be the start of his third racing circumnavigation. After winning the Class40 Portimao Global Ocean Race in 2009, he went on to take fifth place in the Barcelona World Race sailing with American Ryan Breymaier in 2010. But the 38 year old native of Hamburg has now extended his horizons and has registered for The Ocean Race. We caught up with Boris….
Boris tell us about your project for The Ocean Race?
As soon as the decision was announced that it was to be the IMOCA which was to be the new class for the Volvo, now The Ocean Race, I immediately thought it was a great idea and I would do anything to participate in the race. Of course it adds a more long term aspect to our to our project. But I do think it is necessary to start this project before we do the Vendée. You have to have a team with you where you are preparing for the Vendée. The Ocean Race reflects many aspects of our team which, like the race, is very international. The people on our team are from different nations, and so are our partners. And so The Ocean Race presents different, more international opportunities which by definition – as a stopping race visiting different territories are complementary to those of the Vendée Globe. The Ocean Race reaches other markets and is well known in Germany. So, we are registered, now we are working to look for partners.
Who are the partners who support you in this project?
Today, our main partner for the Vendée Globe is the Yacht Club of Monaco, we also have BMWand EFG Bank, and we are still looking for complementary partners to help us step up a level in our potential for technical development. Now we will also need partners from all over the world and in Germany of course for this project for The Ocean Race. Today we do not live in a world where the projects are all 100% national. Our team is totally international, I am German, we have a New Zealand boat-captain, Irish and English technicians, Ryan Breymaier who is American, Pierre Casiraghi who is Monegasque. I think this reflects the world of The Ocean Race and it is the same with companies with employees from different countries, operating in many different markets. And Malizia is a boat owned by a German owner, I am German, based in Hamburg, but we prepare and train in Brittany and we are often in Monaco whose colors we wear, it’s a real international project. And in the Yacht Club of Monaco alone there are 70 nationalities.
For your project for The Ocean Race where are you in terms of looking at the level of people you would like to work with and sail with?
My ideal is to have about ten sailors who rotate on different stages running with two skippers. I would also like to have real gender equality which is a theme that as well is also important for many modern companies. Today is too early to announce any team, because we are don’t have the funding in place to reach that level of planning.
How much do you think would be a budget for you for The Ocean Race?
There is a big gap between a new boat project and a project like ours which is using an existing and proven boat. In my estimation the purely technical budget, that is to have a reliable and efficient boat around would be minimum 8 million euros (ex VAT), knowing that there is a lot of work to do to transition the boat to crewed configuration and that we must be started before the Vendée Globe so that everything is almost ready as soon as the race is over.
And what is your Vendée Globe budget today?
Around €1.5 million a year and for next year the budget is not yet complete and so the goal is for the next year to get up to €1.8 million.
What modifications do you envisage and are you already working on?
We are working with VPLP and Guillaume Verdier [the designers of the boat, Ed] on the transformations that have been made and on those that will need to be made, for the Ocean Race. We are only at the stage of discussions and ideas but we are addressing things. I have sailed with four or five, racing and delivering. I already think that it would be nice to have wheels to move the coffee grinder, to clear some space behind the coach roof for the crew. We have a very tight cockpit, but if we extend it back, it can be good enough to work with four. But the main thing is the foils. I think it can be interesting to work with other teams to share costs. The goal is for me to have a powerful boat which is particularly proven and reliable. I do think that even with an ‘existing’ boat you can get a good result on this first edition, because some come in to the race without much IMOCA experience even those with new boats. It takes time to get to know these boats which are very complicated. So in this edition with an existing boat, we can still be in the match and targeting a finish in the top half of the fleet.
Have you already discussed the possibility of The Ocean Race stopping in to Monaco?
Just now there are discussions between the organizers and Monaco, but in particular that an Ocean Summit of The Ocean Race would be organized in Monaco. And we also discussed the possibility of a prologue between Monaco and Alicante, but these are just discussions.
To your knowledge you are the first team registered, are there other projects?
There are projects which are quite advanced which are secret. I do not know why. But think that there will be no problem in there being a respectable fleet. On the other hand, I am surprised that there are not more who are already out in the open and positioning themselves, especially among the IMOCA teams. Perhaps in France, The Ocean Race is still seen as quite an expensive race, to which the French public is not as attached as the international community. But for example in Germany, there is no mention of the Transat Jacques Vabre while the Volvo was very well known, much more so than the Vendée Globe. But I have no doubt that teams will enter The Ocean Race.
There is another German project, Offshore Team Germany, do you have links with them?
No, it’s a different project, they do things on their side, we are rivals I suppose, but it’s good for the sport. I think they are launching their boat Friday in Kiel and that’s a good thing.
Let’s finish with the current season: where are you in your preparation for the Transat Jacques Vabre?
Today, I am looking for a co-skipper, because Pierre Casiraghi has decided not to do it, I would like to find someone as soon as possible so we can start training in Port-la-Forêt just after the Fastnet. The ideal profile would be either a Figarist who is interested in IMOCA and French culture, or someone comes from the Volvo and uses the Jacques Vabre to learn the IMOCA.
What objective are you going to fix on this Jacques Vabre?
I would like to perform well against the boats of the existing generation, and to be able to see what the new boats bring, to draw conclusions for Malizia. Will we need to make new foils or change the shapes of the sails? It will be a good test. Personally, I would prefer to continue through to the Vendée Globe with what we have because for me, the reliability is what is most the single most important thing, but if the performance gaps are too big and we are too far behind then we would have to move on.