Olivier Heer

Olivier Heer: « Being among the starters, it’s a dream come true »

Oliver Heer learned on Tuesday that SAEM Vendée had decided to award him the only wild card available to him for the Vendée Globe 2024 (see above). The 36-year-old Swiss skipper welcomed the news with relief, as he tells Tip & Shaft.

► I guess the SAEM Vendée’s announcement was a big relief for you?
Absolutely ! If I had to use one word, it would be relief. I was quite confident I would get it because I was on the top of the selection table among the remaining sailors, but you never know until you actually know. So it was a big big relief but it’s also excitement what’s ahead and finally we can move on with the summer refit and all the work that we’re planning on the boat because before the announcement, we put everything on hold.

► What are your feelings about James Harayda and François Guiffant?
Honestly, I’m devastated for them, especially because I was almost in their position. I know both of them, I used to sail in England with James, and with Fanch, we are both in Port-la-Forêt, they are very good sailors who have invested a lot of time and financial resources, blood, sweat and tears into their campaign, and after three years to be left out, just two sailors out of 42 is very tough and hard.

► Did you have any fear about the jury of The Transat CIC who made an enquiry about you after for a breach of the role of assistance?
It was quite a surprising story because the Transat CIC jury made an announcement that they investigate against a sailor on the day of the departure of the New York Vendée. And then my team decided that they will not notify me about it. For the return race, I did not have Starlink on the boat, so they knew that I will not be checking the news and stuff. That was about four or five hours before I cross the line in Les Sables that my team informed me about the investigation, and it was a big a big surprise! Also, we then had to make a quick plan. The thing is that certain information in this news article that was the center of the whole investigation, was not fully correct. Certain things got translated wrong from English to French. And I was quite confident that I did nothing wrong. And if I did something wrong, it was a very small and unintentional misdoing. I was always convinced that I did not breach Rule 69 to do intentional cheating for performance benefits. So I took it quite relaxed, but still we had to prepare very well. We had to think very well about the answers that we give. And then again, a little bit like the announcement of the SAEM Vendee this week, it was a big relief to then hear from the jury that I did not do anything wrong.

“We are still looking for a title partner”

► What is the plan for you know?
I’m currently in Switzerland, we have quite a lot of public appearances and meetings because we are still looking for a title partner, we are the only boat in the 40 starters not having a title partner, and then, I will be back in Port-la-Forêt on Monday, the we will move on with the “chantier”. We did the 90 degrees test Wednesday or Thursday then we immediately mast out and put the boat out of water to do a lot of works for the next 6 weeks, some of them bigger job, like the new batteries, we have also a lot of job dealing with the ergonomics, a new seat, a new bed…► How much money do you need?
The title partnership we offer is just under half a million euros for the next 12 months. I hope that the announcement of the SAEM Vendée will help us, before that, there was quite a bit of uncertainty, I felt this uncertainty during the meetings with the potential sponsors. Now that my name is on the list of participants, I very much hope that this will change the outlook and the view of the sponsors.► Was it a long way for you to go until this first Vendée Globe?
Absolutely. You can look at it in two ways. One, it’s a very long road. And the other viewpoint is that its time flies. The whole campaign started really in my head when I sailed back from Cape Town with Alex after the Vendée Globe 2020. He told me that I should do the Vendée Globe myself. That was the first time I really started to consider it, that was in January 2021 and now we are in 24. So, yes, it’s more than three years ago. And then we bought the boat more than two years ago so yes, it’s been a long road but now I’m sure the next four months to the start will fly away, we have a lot to do at this time.

“I would like to be in the front pack
of the non-foiling boats”

► Has the Vendée Globe always been a goal for you?
Absolutely! I was always saling in my life. I started on the Optimist when I was 5 years old. I was still very young but I when I was this age, Internet did not exist yet, so I was always following the Vendée Globe on all the magazines and all the sailors like Bernar Stamm, Dominique Wavre…. I followed the Vendée Globe all my life, and the other world-the-round-races, like the Whitbread then the Volvo, it was always in my head, but the dream was so far away, it became more realistic when I started to work closely with Alex, being his boat captain then his co skipper. And then suddenly I realized I might have actually what it takes to do a Vendée Globe campaign myself. And now, being among the starters, it’s a dream come true.► What will be your goal for this first Vendée Globe?
It’s a good question. Sure, I want a good performance, there are two fleets, the foilers and the non foilers, I would like to be in the front pack of the non-foiling boats, but the most important is to finish the race, but also to tell a god story. I’m from the German part of Switzerland, from Zurich, and although we have multiple good Imoca sailors like Alan Roura and Justine Mettraux from the Romandy region, I have to do a lot of communication and educating people about the Vendée Globe because not everyone knows it yet. For me it is very important to tell the story and promote offshiore sailing in my home.

Photo: James West Media

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