Transat Jacques Vabre  

7th place for Malizia-Seaexplorer  

Sunday 19th November 2023. It was a fitting finish on Monaco’s National Day for Malizia-Seaexplorer, Yacht Club de Monaco’s IMOCA, skippered by Boris Herrmann racing with Will Harris, which arrived in Fort-de-France to take 7th place in the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre. They were just minutes behind their closest competitors. It took 12 days 9 hours 1 minute 3 seconds for the latest addition to Team Malizia, founded by YCM Vice-President Pierre Casiraghi, to burn through the 5,319 nautical miles separating Le Havre from Fort-de-France in Martinique at an average speed of 17.91 knots.  

In at the deep end 

After the start was postponed due to complex weather conditions in the Channel the IMOCA fleet had its fair share of rough seas, the first 24 hours seeing six of the 40 contestants forced to stop or abandon the race. With wind speeds up to 45 knots, conditions were a reminder of the difficulties associated with this legendary double-hander. Despite some electronic issues at the start, the 60-footer flying the Monaco flag faced down all the challenges with aplomb. 

Strategic gamble 

Once they’d passed Cap Finistère teams had a choice of two routes: due south via the Canary Islands or west via the Azores. Boris Herrmann and Will Harris decided to go south to stay with the front pack. Along the African coast, the pair remained in the race at all times. On the approach to Diamond Rock Charal, Initiatives Cœur, and Malizia Seaexplorer produced a close finish every bit as intense as their race. 



Nail-biting finish 

Such narrow gaps between IMOCAs at the end confirm the class’s homogeneity and the skills of sailors at the top level. Two foil boats led by Justine Mettraux had separated from the fleet to take the north route. “In no other race in the world could we have had a 1,000 nautical mile north/south gap and yet finish so close together,” commented Boris Herrmann, adding: “The first few days we wondered if we should take the north route as it seemed the quickest option. But decided to head south as we wanted to sail as close as possible to the majority of the fleet. Although we’ve done many miles on our boat, we have not had a chance to measure our performance against the most recent IMOCAs. We’ve proved we are competitive, that our boat is fast downwind and that can be a big asset in the Vendée Globe. In that sense, we have achieved our sporting objective for this race. Being in the top seven is satisfactory but we think we’ve learned that we can still improve and that results of the next races will reflect this”.  

It was therefore on Sunday 19th November at 17:31:03 UTC (13:31 local time) that the YCM’s IMOCA crossed the finish of the “Coffee Route”, just a few boat lengths behind Justine Mettraux and Julien Villion on TEAMWORK.NET who snatched 6th place just 1 minute and 5 seconds earlier. They arrived only 11 hours, 28 minutes and 32 seconds after the winners, Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière (For People). “It was great doing the race with Boris,” said co-skipper Will Harris. “He can now approach the next races with a lot of confidence in the boat. We showed that the 60-footer can keep up with the new generation of foilers and if he makes the right choices he can achieve some great results and have a good chance of a podium finish”.  

Environment as a leitmotif 

During the fourth day of racing, Boris Herrmann and Will Harris deployed a drifting buoy that they had on board Malizia-Seaexplorer off Portugal at 37 degrees north latitude. This scientific instrument has the capability to send data for around 700 days on atmospheric pressure, sea temperature and ocean currents to scientists ashore, data essential for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and climatologists to better understand the weather and the role played by the ocean in climate change. 

It is the second time Team Malizia has deployed a drifting buoy during a Transat Jacques Vabre, the first being in 2019. This year, the pair has deployed two drifting buoys from Malizia-Seaexplorer during The Ocean Race bringing the total to three for 2023. They weigh around 25kg and measure 40cm in diameter.  

Boris Herrmann will leave Martinique on 30th November with the majority of the IMOCA fleet for the new “Return to Base” solo race to Lorient.