Boris Herrmann: "Anything Can Still Happen"

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Boris Herrmann: "Anything Can Still Happen"
Boris Herrmann: "Anything Can Still Happen"

Video: Boris Herrmann: "Anything Can Still Happen"

Video: Boris Herrmann: "Anything Can Still Happen"
Video: Boris Herrmann gives us details about what happened onboard SeaExplorer - YC Monaco 2023, March

The past week was not easy for Boris Herrmann - he had to repair major damage three times. On Tuesday morning it was a crack in the leech of his mainsail that could quickly have stretched across the entire width.

With plenty of Sik291, some webbing, pieces of cloth, Dyneema thread and twelve hours of exertion, it could be mended - not pretty, but solid. On Tuesday afternoon, German time, the 39-year-old was able to put on full gear again.

In the meantime only under jib and dropped back to eleventh place, Herrmann is now back in attack mode. Late in the evening he logged the second fastest speed in the lead group. Only 230 nautical miles separate him from fifth place; Even a podium place seems to be within reach, says his team member and co-skipper Will Harris.

Of course: Boris Herrmann had to bite badly. When he answered questions from two dozen journalists in a video conference that afternoon, he initially seemed monosyllabic, almost absent - that's how deep the exhaustion is after the stormy breakdown ride of the past few days.

It was perhaps the most impressive round of talks at this year's Vendée, which is why we are documenting the answers in full. The Hamburger did not avoid any question, was open, self-critical - and still determined to "be able to get a few more places".

This is what Boris Herrmann says about …

… his sleep quota in the last 24 hours: "About two or three hours."

… the origin of the damage to the large: "We had a pretty strong wind. Then I tied in the third reef, and the sail hit the want and tore at the leech to about 15 centimeters. That means: Any load can cause the sail to tear completely. If that happens I wouldn't have had enough material to fix it like the Japanese (Kojiro Shiraishi) did. I've already used too much material and glue. So that would have been the end of the race. So that was immediately the greatest Fortunately, it wasn't such a large-scale repair, but a structural one that had to be done properly and was also complicated

Boris Herrmann
Boris Herrmann

Tool arsenal for patching sails

Boris Herrmann
Boris Herrmann

Not pretty, but lasts

If you reef the sail that far, the triangle on the shroud is so wide that the head of the mainsail can slip into it. The problem is actually new, because we used to have a much more widely exhibited top in the large. However, we made the head smaller when the headboard ripped the rail out of the mast in the Vendée Arctique race. The new foilers don't need that much space in the top anyway, because they only create resistance at the high speeds. The sail also twists better if it is narrower at the top; that was the North Sails philosophy.

All well and good, but tying in a third reef with 40 to 50 knots of wind was my undoing. If I had just stayed dull in front of the wind or if I had luffed completely when reefing from the start, that would probably not have happened, but afterwards you are always smarter. Of course I have reefed hundreds of times, at 40 knots into the third reef, and always managed to do it, even when entering the Indian Ocean. I also don't know why this has now become my undoing. I suspect that my wind instruments are showing too little, meaning that there was more wind. But the sail is also built a bit too light, I realize."

… the repair of the mainsail tear: "It took a really long time. I started in the storm, up on deck. The boat surfed down a wave every now and then, only under J3 (the little jib). Really rough conditions, up to 45 winds. I glued the cloth and it then let it harden, quite a long time, so that the sika sets. Has now dried for a good twelve hours. Takes a lot longer because of the cold. Now I have to put the tools away. "

Has gotten warmer, the wind has decreased. It is just as you would like to go to Cape Horn: you are driving towards blue skies and calm seas - lucky!"

… its prospects in the Atlantic "I haven't even taken stock of how much I've lost. But maybe it's not that important. It's important now to sail well and see what happens then. I should be able to get a few more places, hopefully (laughs) Anything can happen. People can be absent; others have problems too

I am still grateful for every day that I am still at sea. You only become aware of this when you are confronted with damage that can throw you out of the running. Two days ago the problem with the generator, now the big thing - you are reminded to be a little grateful if things go on at all."

… his fifth Cape Horn rounding: "That was the hardest Cape Horn, the least as you would wish. I actually saw the horn all the other times. This time it was a storm, it was gray, I fell behind in the race - it was the least enjoyable experience. "

… the feeling of having the hardest behind you: "That is totally superimposed by the damage to the mainsail. If I hadn't been able to repair it, it would have been the end of the race for me. I don't have that much provisions with me. That's why I haven't even realized that I'm going around Cape Horn I only had crisis mode for 24 hours, worked full throttle, only slept as much as necessary

I will first tidy up here, get some sleep, look at the map and only then really realize that I am around Cape Horn. I think that's a huge relief. I feel relieved of pressure right now. I think it's just the happiness that the mainsail is working again."

… the unusual celebration at the Cape: "If you can't see the cape, then it's not particularly interesting to pour whiskey overboard or to drink it. Well, I didn't celebrate the cape. I can celebrate other things as well: if I catch up, maybe, or the equator (happen) or something. "

… his sporting ambition: "The Vendée Globe is not just a race - it is also an adventure. And you can see that in challenges like yesterday and today, the big one, the storm. Getting to the finish line is not a matter of course. In a race where everyone is safe there is only the sporty aspect, but arriving here is such a great achievement

And that is still at the top of my priority list. I still want to get out what is possible, I want to sail as well as I can. And I've also trained more in these Atlantic conditions and know the boat better and hope to be able to better exploit its potential and hopefully make up a few more places."

… the tactics of the coming days: "At least at the beginning the routings all point in the same direction, and so does the fleet. So west of the Falkland Islands there has been no option for a few days. At the moment there is no big binary decision pending."

… the relief to be in the Atlantic: "The Atlantic is just a completely different house number. Such a weather situation with breaking waves, cross lakes, 50 knots of wind - hopefully we won't have that to the finish line. I hope we won't have to put in a third reef. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but if things go well, we will now sail home in moderate conditions, perhaps avoiding a deep in the North Atlantic

Of course we will also have reaching and upwind conditions; in the next ten days it will be tough again. But it's the course to the north, it's getting warmer, mentally it's a completely different stage. Above all: you are back in civilization. In a week we will be close to shipping lines again. If something happens in the South Sea, it's always game over. One can still count on salvation in the Atlantic."

… Yannick Bestaven's tour: "Yannick is a great sailor and his boat is similar to ours, but doesn't have the new, bigger foils yet. So I didn't have him on my list before the Vendée Globe. That's really a surprise. Of course it was with the small ones Foils a lot easier in the Southern Ocean, he could just push a lot more

I also imagine: if I had sailed our boat, in the old configuration, I could have sailed with fewer doubts. And I've gotten into a spiral a bit. We also had so many of the unfavorable conditions for us, surprisingly. Yannick now shows himself from a very strong side that we didn't know about him before."

… his desire for sailing, for even more lonely miles: Right now I'm in high spirits because the mainsail is working again and because it goes on after everything has been questioned. That is what the Vendée Globe is to me: over and over again the greatest challenges and the most difficult obstacles. And that's not a fun activity - but it has something somewhere. I'm not even asking myself (would he rather get out if he could). Of course, I want to sail home and not fly from Ushuai by plane. If you were to tell me: You will get ninth place if you stop now, then I would say: Nope, I'll get myself a better place, and besides, I prefer to sail on. But: it's damn long. And the last few days have been so damn hard, unbelievable! That is, I might have answered differently

… his incentive to shoot videos even in difficult situations "I sometimes feel loneliness, and talking to you is good for me. It also helps to process these things. Talking to someone, even if it's just the camera operator … A lot of stress and pressure and inner distress accumulate. And to get rid of them, it helps to speak to the camera

This is totally a type thing. For me the camera is like a friend to whom I tell something. If you see that as a duty and try to always look good, to be strong, then at some point I would put that aside. I have a fundamentally different attitude. I don't think about how I am perceived. I just start talking and don't filter.

Holly (Cova, Boris ’team manager) did not want to show a video; The day before yesterday I felt so bad. She said: It's not good when you come across as negative (laughs). Otherwise, I will talk freely, and that just helps me."

… the chance to fully exploit the potential of the new foils now: "It would be a great satisfaction, because we put a lot of work and money into the foils and the conversion and further development of the ship. Up until now, I didn't feel that I had lived up to this potential. But if it stayed that way, it would be OK

The whole year of the renovation was really exciting, and we developed the ship in the right direction. And even if the (hoped for) result didn't come out, I wouldn't regret it. I've already thought about that. Now you just have to see what is still possible. The conditions have to be right. If there is not enough wind, it will not foam or if it is too close to the wind. Do I have to be a little lucky too?

This Damien Seguin on "Groupe Apicil" - when we are sailing our training courses in Brittany, we only see a ship like this for the first two hours after take-off and then never again. It's totally crazy how older ships were able to create some really great performance in the South Seas. In the Atlantic we were before those, we were significantly faster, so I also hope that normality will be restored on the way back."

… the possibility that this will not be his last Vendée: "I don't know what the future will bring. Do we have to talk about it after the goal?"

… the question of how much the boat and how much the sailor contributes to the success: "Difficult to say. There is also an interaction. If you have confidence in your ship or if it is simpler, then you can push it harder and get into a flow, you can better tap your potential. But if you notice that it is difficult is to use your boat the way you want, like with me in the entire Southern Ocean, then I also lose a bit of this self-confidence and the routine and confidence. The bumpy way of sailing came to fruition, where I lost miles again and again It's not all bad and black either. But since Christmas I actually wanted to assert myself, but then fell back very clearly against this Damien, which amazes me most. There is an absolute interplay between man and machine. I would say: 50/50. "

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