27th of May, 2012

Boris Herrmann: In at the deep end

Boris Herrmann is more used to the challenges of deep ocean racing. Still only 30 he has already two double-handed round the world races under his belt, winning three of the five legs of the Global Ocean Race in Class 40’s and more recently taking fifth in the Barcelona World Race. His ocean racing started with success in the Mini class when he finished 11th in the Mini Transat in 2001.

He has become a popular figure in his native Germany, one of sailing’s very few recognisable stars. His key target was to be on the start line of this year’s solo non stop round the world Vendée Globe, but recently he has been forced to relinquish that dream, for the moment. Despite being German sailing’s most marketable star, young, adventurous, good looking, intelligent, multilingual and driven, he has been unable to find a sponsor.

A change of tack, to another pinnacle event, has been offered as he joins Audi Sailing Team powered by ALL4ONE as navigator. To say he has jumped in at the deep end is an understatement. His ocean racing navigation skills are well proven, but he admits this type of inshore, crewed racing is all new to him. Indeed racing as part of a bigger crew, until he joined with Giovanni Soldini’s Volvo 70 Maserati, is also slightly alien to him. Until now, two crew, has been the usual. He is a very successful 505 dinghy sailor, runner up in the European Championships and German championships, and top ten at the world championships.

Just a few days into his 52 Super Series season Herrmann is loving the challenge. After Race 7 he said:

We have made a good start, we made a podium finish already and the atmosphere in the team is great.

He has worked with skipper Jochen Schuemann on several sailing related projects in Germany:

Jochen asked me to join the team. I was working with Jochen in general and he asked if I would like to try this. His intention is to give some younger German sailors a chance to be involved in the project.

But the change from ocean racing is massive:

It is very different, yes I am a navigator but it is very different from offshore navigating. But there is a lot of overlap, for example you want good calibrated instruments as well. But offshore you are not worried about laylines of a couple of boat lengths. I have been speaking to a few navigators, but really it is learning by doing. And the team is very helpful and supportive of me doing this role. We did not have a lot of practice because we only started on Friday, we were in the game and there were no major mess ups…..so far

Of course the core skills from high performance dinghy racing are a good foundation:

The mindset for me is familiar because I did many years of dinghy racing, especially in the 505, it is the same way to sail the boat, even down to the feelings, but the laylines are similar. The geometry is quite similar, sailing similar angles downwind, so just making sure you get the machine set up accurately is vital. It is a technical challenge and I like that. I have room to improve, a beginner in this job in some respects.” “Everyone in the team has been helpful, I have followed their discussions closely, and then the technical part is helped by speaking to the electronics people and some other navigators. I have spoken with Juan Vila a bit – he works with Jochen – they sail together and Juan was very helpful.

One bonus here in Barcelona has been going home to sleep in his own bed, Herrmann has made Barcelona his home since he came here for the Barcelona World Race in autumn 2010:

I am absolutely enjoying the rhythm of these races and the intensity and the high level of a good, professional team. It is great to see them all working and be part of it.This is an opportunity which has come along. Sure, it is a class I have followed since the start and have been to events to look and talk to the people. I think as a sailor I am very open in terms of my objectives, open to all kinds of challenges from Figaro to F18’s, offshore crewed, Multihulls….. there are so many fascinating things to do in this sport.

I am not heavily disappointed, you have to be realistic. You cannot approach these things expecting and thinking you have a right to find a sponsor. It is quite normal. It is something I bought into, to create a team to find a sponsor. But we knew from the start that we had a 50% chance so we were not surprised. In a way we were, because it does represent such a great opportunity because it is so easily understood as an adventure, a mediatic sailing event with great values. And the other two round the world races have worked quite well for me, we got a really good media result. And with these two races I have a good following in Germany now. Explaining racing round the world is much easier and more immediate than explaining technical racing. Working with Jochen is very pleasant. He pays a lot of attention to detail, but so far we have not sailed together that much, but he does not impose himself like a skipper, he is more like a coach. That is my feeling.

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