As the 2022 Route du Rhum approaches, we take a look at some of the top names set to compete in the race. Toby Heppell looks at Boris Herrmann’s chances
Few are the non-French sailors that have managed to make a name for themselves in the IMOCA 60 fleet, but German-born Boris Herrmann is just one such ‘international’ who has impressed.
Many singlehanded offshore racers also race in a variety of other classes, from crewed offshore to dinghy racing. Herrmann is just such a jack of all trades, regularly racing 505 dinghies and competing in the foiling catamaran GC32 series.
But it is for his offshore shorthanded racing that the German is best known. In a world dominated by the French, Herrmann has a long list of events in which he was the only German competing.
His first proper offshore solo race was the Mini Transat in 2001 where he was the only German on the startline (and the youngest skipper too). His 11th place finish there marked him out as one to watch for the future.
Also in 2018 (alongside Pierre Casiraghi) Herrmann founded the Malizia Ocean Challenge project. This initiative aims to combine sailing, science and education to get children fascinated about sailing and ocean topics whilst teaching them about climate change.
In 2019 he sailed climate activist Greta Thunberg from Plymouth to New York City in mid-late August 2019 on his emission-free IMOCA 60 Malizia II.
With the principal backing of Yacht Club de Monaco (which had backed him with the IMOCA purchase), he entered the 2020-21 Vendée Globe with Malizia II (originally launched under Gitana colours for Seb Josse for the 2016-17 edition of the race) and in so doing became the first German to compete in the event (apart from the Franco-German Isabelle Joschke).
Herrmann had an incredibly strong race and for a time it looked as though he may become the first non-French sailor to win it in the tense last few days of racing.
After Charlie Dalin took line honours in the Vendée, four skippers, including Herrmann, Yannick Bestaven, Louis Burton and Thomas Ruyant, were left steaming across a wet and windy Bay of Biscay into Les Sables d’Olonne at 16-20 knots, with the margins too close to predict who would finish ahead – all were due some time correction thanks to their efforts to help a search and rescue operation for fellow skipper Kevin Escoffier earlier in the race.
However, Herrmann’s chances dissipated just minutes after Dalin’s victory, when his boat, which was in 3rd place at the time and still well within his six-hour margin to overtake Dalin, had collided with a fishing boat some 90 miles from the Vendée Globe dock. He limped home to finish 5th in the event.
IMOCA 60 Malizia – Seaexplorer
Sail number: MON 1297
LWL: 18,28 m
Beam: Not published
Draught: 4,5 m
Displacement: Not published
Malizia – Seaexplorer is relatively unique in the world of IMOCA 60s in that she has been designed with the fully crewed Ocean Race in mind in addition to short handed sailing – the only other IMOCA 60 launch to date that has taken this route is 11th hour racing’s Malãma, which is geared more towards The Ocean Race than singlehanding.
Herrmann hopes to be equally competitive in both events, but there are slightly different requirements, with fully crewed boats able to be pushed harder for longer they need to be tougher and are thus likely to be less lightweight.
For this new design, partly due to the fully crewed needs for The Ocean Race and partly as a personal preference, Malizia – Seaexplorer has gone with an almost entirely enclosed cockpit. It is not quite as radical as Alex Thomson’s last generation Hugo Boss is (now Hublot in the hands of Alan Roura), but it is not far off.
It’s an interesting conundrum and it will certainly be fascinating to see how Herrmann goes in the 2022 Route du Rhum in his new boat.