Boris Herrmann launches into the unpredictable

The brutal sailing regatta begins
Boris Herrmann launches into the unpredictable

German sailing star Boris Herrmann is embarking on his next adventure. The “Ocean Race” is the most important team regatta in the world. The King’s Stage takes athletes over 12,750 nautical miles at the end of February. This is a historically long section.

Roaring storms, icy challenges in the Southern Ocean, excruciatingly hot regions of calm. With astronaut food in their luggage, repair equipment in case of breakage on board, emergency equipment in case of injury and a lot of determination, five international crews set off on Sunday to Alicante, Spain, in one of the last great sporting adventures of our time: the ocean race around the world. “The only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain”, says Boris Herrmann: “In the Ocean Race, you always have to reckon with the unexpected.”

Herrmann is the star among the four German participants in the 14th Ocean Race. The Hamburger starts with his Malizia team under the German flag in the most important team regatta in the world. Berliner Robert Stanjek is co-skipper of Team Guyot, which also includes Phillip Kasüske from the capital. Olympic silver medalist Susann Beucke from Schleswig-Holstein Strande has joined the Swiss team Holcim-PRB. Never before in 50 years of racing history have so many boats been used by German players.

Of the 2,085 sailors in the last 13 editions, 85 came from Germany. Four yachts under the German flag, the only German victory of the “Illbruck” in 2002 and individual players such as Tim Kröger from Hamburg, Toni Kolb from Munich and Michael Müller from Kiel started the sailing classic which started in 1973 under the name of “Whitbread Round the World Race” in the first form for 40 years. Over the past decade, the Germans have disappeared. Today they celebrate their brilliant comeback.

“I will cry when he crosses the starting line”

“Boris showed the way. The strong German presence in the Ocean Race is also a realization of his success in the last Vendée Globe,” said Berliner Jens Kuphal, paying tribute to the German sailing star and future opponent. Kuphal is an experienced music producer, musician, composer and former manager of artists like Nena or Alphaville.

Together with Star Boat World Champion Robert Stanjek, Kuphal founded Offshore Team Germany in 2017 with the aim of competing in the Ocean Race. Together with the French skipper and owner Ben Dutreux, they now present themselves on the starting line as Guyot Environnement –​​Team Europe. “I will cry when our team crosses the starting line on Sunday,” said team leader Kuphal, reflecting on the difficult road to participation. With a seven-year-old but proven boat, Team Guyot is looking for a chance against the four other newcomers on the grid. The budget of around four million euros is not enough to take giant steps, but it goes around the world.

“Guyot is to be expected. The five participating teams can win a stage or the race,” said Boris Herrmann. At 41, the father of the family and fifth in the Vendée Globe is about to make his debut in ocean racing after completing four round the world races. His new building “Malizia – Seaexplorer” recently had surprising problems with the foils, the wings on the fuselage. “It was a serious setback for us,” Herrmann said. However, the team was able to find and successfully install replacement sheets.

A fine line between speed and material protection

Susann Beucke has the steepest learning curve. The 31-year-old only made the switch from Olympic sailing to offshore sailing at the start of 2022. She is training in France for her long-term goal, the Vendée Globe. The fact that she secured an offshore racing position after only a year in the new environment made Beucke a star as she finished second at the Japan Olympics. It should be used for the first time on the second leg from Cape Verde to Cape Town.

For the first time, the Ocean Race will take place on Imoca type boats. Well known are the 18 meter long foilers of the solo round the world race in the Vendée Globe, where they must be tamed by soloists. In the Ocean Race, they are now flown by crews of four. There are opportunities and risks here: “Our job is to sail the boats as a team so fast that they don’t break down,” says Herrmann.

The two opening legs from Alicante to Cape Verde and up to Cape Town form the opening of the Ocean Race over a total of six months. At the end of February, the historically longest royal leg follows: it leads a brutal 12,750 nautical miles past the Cape of Good Hope to Itajai in Brazil. “That alone is half a circumnavigation of the globe,” Herrmann says. In April we will continue to Newport, USA. There, in May, the fleet will make the transatlantic leap to Europe to Aarhus, Denmark. The penultimate stage leads via “Fly-By” to Kiel on June 9 in The Hague. The grand finale will be celebrated in the Italian port of destination Genoa in July.

(This article was first published on Sunday, January 15, 2023.)

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