Koji looking for a race with ‘no majors’

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The first edition of the Vendée Arctique Les Sables d’Olonne in the spring of 2020 was the first race for Japan’s solo racer Kojiro Shiraishi with the DMG MORI GLOBAL ONE. While he finished in a highly creditable tenth position overall the skipper, who went on to become the first Asian racer to complete the Vendée Globe, admits the race was something of a technical battle from start to finish. Electrical and battery problems beset his efforts with a boat he knew little of.
When his mainsail ripped early in the Vendée Globe his fight to repair his sail and to then carry on all the way round to the finish with a deeply reefed mainsail was one of the most engaging human victories on the last race.

It is little wonder then that Koji is most of all wanting most of all to having a straight, clean race on this upcoming Vendée Arctique Les Sables d’Olonne, a passage with, as they say, ‘no majors’. He has had little time training and optimising his boat since the Vendée Globe as he has took the VPLP/Verdier IMOCA to Japan to show and sail with sponsors and introduce more Japanese people to the Vendée Globe and ocean racing.

Smiling, like always, on the pontoon of the Vendée Globe the 55 year old says, “This time I am looking forwards to sailing a race like the way I want to without worrying too much. In terms of my possible position in this race there are more and more well performing boats so to be in the top 10 again would be hard but it is the challenge. Since the Vendée Globe the boat has been in Japan for a year. So we did not have time to make changes and so a big refit is coming up in next winter with new foils.”
He cautions, “We will not make this boat an extreme boat. We are looking to have a new foils and with that we want to be a little faster but mostly with a little more stability. We have changed the chart table and the seat at the chart table to be a little more comfortable inside. It is now very comfortable and I feel nice and serene inside the boat. And if Jean Le Cam does not compete in the next race I will be the oldest skipper in the next race. And I feel it, right now everything hurts. Every year the mainsail gets heavier.”


Looking back to the first Vendée Arctique he feels he proved the boat’s potential but he did now have to go looking for problems, “The result was maybe good but the race itself was very difficult. It was the first race for this boat and there were a lot of problems that we knew nothing about before and once I was out there singlehanded everything happened and I had a lot of trouble with the batteries and energy. I had to climb the mast once. It was, let’s say very eventful.”

So after the Route du Rhum DMG GLOBAL ONE will go for a major refit,
“For me it is important to have a boat which sails more easily so that I can push it harder for longer and be faster in the long run. I liked the race of Boris Herrmann last time, yes, he was steady and fast and the same thing as Jean Le Cam and Eric Bellion they know how to keep up high averages.

As he says unless 'Le Roi', 'King' Jean Le Cam does return, Koji looks like he will be the oldest skipper on the next race at 58,

“ I share the same strength and conditioning coach as Jérémie Beyou in Lorient but of course our programmes are different. I am trying to build core strength and general fitness. My brief to the coach is to not make my body hurt so much. There is no need to build muscle the main thing is to be able to move around safely and not injure myself. So lots of work with balance balls and high reps and lighter weights. It is good training.”

And they have made real changes to their team and the program to keep improving performance in what has become an incredibly competitive class:

“ We are much more data focused now collecting and analysing performance data.” Shiraishi volunteers, “That is new, gathering all the load sensor data to understand how to make the boat faster. We have hired Benoît Mariette as technical director and we have gathered a lot of data and have learned much more about trimming the foils, the rig and so on.”

“Doing more races is so important to me. It is what will lead to me getting better and optimising the boat much more. There are now a lot of races in the build up to the Vendée Globe and so I know that will help ensure I get better with each race. Into the 2020 I had brand new boat and before the race I had only one race and I had a big heart surgery before the race and so I only really had that before the Vendée Globe. Now there are close to ten races before the next Vendée Globe. We have lots of opportunities to learn and make the boat go faster.”