Round-the-world sailor Boris Herrmann traditionally has a bottle of rum with him. It was recently given as a good luck gift for his new adventure from his favorite creperie “Boo’t a Boo” in Larmor Plage, a small town in Brittany. However, it will be a while before he opens the bottle.
Two years after his fifth place at the Vendée Globe, Herrmann is back in action this weekend. The 41-year-old from Hamburg will start the transatlantic classic Route du Rhum on Sunday off the Breton port of Saint Malo with the new “Malizia – Seaexplorer”.
Approximately four months after the launch of the high-tech boat, placing on the 3,540 nautical miles and approximately two-week voyage across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe is of secondary importance to Herrmann. The transatlantic classic, which is held every four years, is the first stress test for the new yacht. It’s about the further development of the boat. And about arriving.
The Route du Rhum has been sailed in six classes since 1978. At its debut four years ago, Herrmann finished fifth in the Imoca class. 138 soloists from 15 nations are there this time, including seven female skippers. It’s an event that draws the crowds. “The French love this race because it always creates a spectacle! The whole region around Sain-Malo is in a state of emergency in the weeks leading up to the start. Before Covid, up to three million people made a pilgrimage to the port of departure, now there are still 1.5 million or more,” says Herrmann. “There are huge queues in front of the boats in the harbor until 9 p.m. at night.”
The fact that the event is a sailing spectacle also brings with it challenges. “It’s great and inspiring to see how enthusiastic people are,” says Herrmann. “But it’s a double-edged sword for me because there’s carnival all around the boat and you have to see how you can get through and through.”
For him and the new “Malizia” the regatta is a first endurance test and for Herrmann the comeback as a sailing soloist since the Vendée Globe 2020/21 – at that time still with the old “Malizia”. He doesn’t quite trust the new version yet. “I like my ship, but I’m still suspicious when it comes to basic trust because we’ve had too many problems in the past few weeks,” he says. On the other hand, he and his team “would not be as far as we are now without the pressure of the race”.
And the race is tough, notorious for its rough starts. In 2002, for example, only slightly more than half of the fleet made it to the finish line, and there were many failures in the early stages. The course takes skippers out of the European winter and into the trade winds of Guadeloupe. “First comes the baptism of fire, then the barefoot route,” summarizes Herrmann. “We’re expecting three strong storms that we’ll have to deal with on our westbound course.” The fleet can also look forward to more pleasant sailing in tropical conditions.
After just under 30 days of sailing with the new yacht, Herrmann will have to find the best configurations for the difficult tests. “You have to see how you can cope with the swell when the ship starts to take off on its foils and then crashes down again from a height of several meters,” says Herrmann.
His hope: “When I’ve fought my way through hell for a week, when sore muscles, pain and sleep deprivation are slowly disappearing and maybe there’s a bit of a tropical atmosphere on board, then with the rum I can remind myself for a moment that there’s still life outside of the… struggle for survival.”
The next challenge is already on January 15th. Herrmann will be sailing in the Ocean Race for the first time. Then a crew on the “Malizia” will accompany him in the regatta around the world. Herrmann’s goal is the next solo circumnavigation Vendée Globe 2024/2025 – then with a well-engineered boat.