The IMOCA is fully equipped with 1.3kw of custom fitted solar panels and two Watt and Sea hydro generators to power the boat so they can avoid using fossil fuels as much as possible. Reducing the amount and therefore the added weight of fuel that must be carried enhancing performance. However, there is additional weight that Boris has knowingly added.
He is carrying a CO₂ Ocean sensor onboard to measure the ocean data in the remote locations the boat is passing through as it sails around the world. A smaller and lighter version of the scientific data I was able to obtain when I led the team, Turn the Tide on Plastic in The Ocean Race in 2017. It can test the CO₂ levels, the salinity, pressure and the temperature of the water. These elements collected feed the International “SOCAT” database accessible to the international scientific community.
The project has a strong education programme running alongside the race and it has been enhanced by Boris being so willing to share what he sees and how he feels along the racecourse. The project had the mission to promote ocean research, ocean protection and education across the planet. The team has met with 10500 children, held 25 conferences, and has had 10 000 education kits downloaded. Boris has even linked to school children live from his boat during the race.
Always on Air
This may be the first time a German sailor has competed in the Vendee Globe, but Boris has completed three circumnavigations, one of which was non-stop, making him an ideal choice to carry the hopes of his nation, but he has never raced solo before. So, this will be the longest time Boris will have spent on his own. He has not hidden from us his solitude and how at times he has found this feeling of isolation difficult, but he does maintain that while he may be alone, he is not lonely. Thankfully, he has fully engaged with the camera as his companion and shared his race with us every step of the way. Being able to communicate fluently in three languages has been an asset and something the media were quick to capitalise on.
I have been super impressed how much media Boris has done. Always being available to chat and willing to share even the rawest of emotions with us in this race. He has been open and honest, and we have really been able to experience the highs and lows he has felt. The camera has shown us life onboard, how he sleeps, how he eats and even his beloved Christmas jumper, that will remain my highlight of the race. This jumper came out on the first Sunday of Advent on day 21 of the race and stayed with us throughout the festive period. He has shared his sunrises and sunsets, his mast climbs and sail changes. We have even seen him share the racecourse with boats within sight making Christmas a much more sociable affair.
Boris has talked to us about the weather, the science, and data he is able to collect along the way and of course his strategy and tactics for a strong performance. He has sailed a very mature race, focussing on keeping himself and his boat in one piece in the Southern Ocean, staying with the pack but not pushing too hard. At the same time, he knew if he could position himself with the lead pack coming out of the South Atlantic, he could be able to challenge for the podium. Now 78 days on as we approach the final miles, he is doing exactly that.
I have loved his Germanic approach throughout his campaign. He likes to be ahead of schedule and ready for each stage of his project. He not only arrived first into Les Sables D’Olonne in October in the preparation phase of the race, but when he arrived, he and the boat were ready to go. The team were left with only small preparation jobs and Boris himself went home and spent valuable time with his wife and young daughter whilst looking at weather and eating and sleeping well. Due to COVID restrictions during the race start period, travel and interactions were limited so Boris kept himself as safe as possible.
Sailing of these IMOCA boats is also very technical with data giving load readings from all over the boat. This allows the sailor to avoid over stressing and risking the foils, mast, or hull to shock loads. By sticking to these numbers, Boris has avoided having any major issues along the way and now gives himself the best chance to sail at his full potential for these final miles.
Before the race Boris spoke openly of knowing his boat and himself but never experiencing how to deal with a set back when solo sailing. He has been lucky to date, but was super aware of not really knowing how he would react to being forced to manage a major issue and sail compromised.
Throughout the race we have read blogs and seen videos of most issues that Boris has had to deal with. Each time he has been even tempered and calm in his approach dealing with issues in a matter-of-fact manner, being methodical and practical. We learned of him changing his motor that drives the hydraulic pump for his keel ram. This drives the head of the keel back and forth and it was damaged due to water ingress.
On day 53 he was thankful he had a spare motor, but then was nervous because if it happened again there would not be the option to change it again. We knew about some damage to his J3 sheet back at the start of the race on day 3 and that Boris climbed to the top of his mast on Day 19 to service his gennaker lock that was not working properly.
On day 34 he suffered damage to is mainsail, noticing that batten number 2 was broken and there was a small rip in the sail. He dropped the sail and carried out the repairs using Sikaflex and 3di patches and replaced the broken batten with a new one. This sail damage theme continued when we saw the next day that Boris had to fix his J2 zipper that had come undone in the middle of the luff. Another climb aloft up his forestay but only halfway this time.
On day 26 Boris talks about losing both his hydro generators but it was not until Day 37 that he had the conditions to set about fixing them. On day 57 Boris was able to celebrate rounding Cape Horn. His fourth time round and his first solo, however, celebrations were far from his mind. With 140 miles to go Boris was aware of a building breeze to 45-50knots. He was going through the sail changes and was at J3 and 2 reefs when he went for the third reef.