13 days, 3 hours, 47 minutes and 30 seconds was the exact time it took the Imoca and its Malizia II – Yacht Club de Monaco team to sail the 40th anniversary Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe race from the sea wall of Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre. Their time secured skipper Boris Herrmann and founder and co-skipper Pierre Casiraghi an excellent fifth-place finish. This performance will no doubt give them a huge amount of encouragement for their next challenge, the legendary Vendée Globe race. We met up with them to talk about past events and future plans.
What makes the Route du Rhum so special?
Boris Herrmann: It’s a race with a long history and an almost mythical reputation. It brings up all these memories of Tabarly and other great names. The Route du Rhum always promises some great battles.
What state of mind were you in as you set off?
BH: The whole team had to spend a year preparing intensively for the race. Doing something with a group always puts more pressure on you than if you were doing it alone,so I worked with a sports psychologist to learn how to manage all that. I meditated and I underwent hypnosis. Pierre Casiraghi and I also put a lot of preparation into the procedures for the start of the race. It was Pierre, with help from the team, who positioned the boat for me on the day so that it could get off to the best possible start.The role he played from land was very important at every stage in the race.
Pierre Casiraghi: I monitored Boris as much as I could and experienced the race as close to first-hand as possible. It’s always a bit stressful though.In a way, it’s less stressful to be on the boat than it is to be on land. If you’re on the boat, you have some control over events. If you’re on land, you’re far away from the action and sometimes you have no idea what’s going on.
You finished fifth. What’s your assessment of your first Route du Rhum?
BH: I’m really proud of our fifth-place finish. Our boat could have kept going once it reached Guadeloupe.That’s a good sign for future races. The Route du Rhum was a full-scale test run for the Vendée Globe, where expectations will be much higher. Our job here was to manage the race both at sea and on land with thoroughness and professionalism. And to protect the boat by not pushing it to too many extremes.
PC: Boris got off to a great start. It got a bit harder after, but he managed the race well and maintained a good level of confidence in his own decision-making. That’s not always easy when you’re doing a new route alone,but he kept his eyes on the prize and stayed positive. It was a great experience that will set us up nicely for the future.
That future includes the 2020 Vendée Globe. What does that mean to you?
PC: It means years of hard work! We’ve had it in our sights for a long time now. It’s very exciting. It will be really special if we manage to start and finish the race and it will be a source of huge satisfaction for the whole team.
For you, Boris, it also means 80 to 90 days alone at sea. Are you feeling nervous?
BH: There are definitely times when you feel very alone. But setting off on your own gives a real purity to the experience. It’s like meditating— you’re out at sea with only yourself for company and you have no idea what is going to happen you. It’s fascinating!
The Malizia II – Yacht Club de Monaco team goes beyond sport to encompass a certain “seafaring philosophy” which engages particularly closely with environmental responsibilities.
PC: Absolutely, that’s a cause I’m always very conscious of. It’s a huge factor for us. We’re working hard to raise as much awareness as we can with the Malizia II – Yacht Club de Monaco team.
BH: For this Route du Rhum race, the boat was fitted with a mini automated laboratory. Scientists supervised it as it continuously pumped and analyzed seawater. The aim was to gather data, with a particular focus on measuring the amount of CO2 being absorbed by the ocean. This work also gives us an opportunity to talk to scientists about climate issues and pass the message onto children following the Route du Rhum or Vendée Globe’s adventures in schools.
Last but not least, what are your favorite events and places in Monaco?
BH: I like exploring Monaco. I’ve come here often over the last six years. There are so many initiatives, activities and institutions offering new things to do, but if I had to choose one, it would be the Oceanographic Museum. And Monaco Ocean Week too.
PC: The Yacht Club de Monaco! What makes Monaco so magical is that we’re so tiny and so huge at the same time. It’s a mix of cultures, a real global village. The influence it has on the world is incredible.
© Jean-Marie LIOT