A keen follower of the Vendée Globe for many years, Pieter Heerema will be one of the 9 rookies in this eighth edition. The Dutch businessman specialising in the offshore oil and gas industries is a skilled sailor. His dream of solo adventures on the high seas started to become reality, when he met Michel Desjoyeaux at a Dragon competition in the spring of 2015. Since then, the Dutchman has clocked up the miles on No Way Back in order to be ready for the start on 6th November.
Born in South America before moving to Holland at the age of 11, Pieter Heerema had a long sailing career ahead of him, both in inshore racing and cruising with his family in various parts of the world. After starting out on a 470, then on an Yngling, he moved to a J/22 and J/24. Since the nineties, he has spent a lot of time crewed racing on two well known types of boat: Dragons and RC 44s, the class thought up by Russell Coutts. Getting some excellent results on an international level, he has often made it to the podium and achieved success with the crew that he has led.
After doing so well with a crew, will Pieter Heerema manage to do the same sailing solo around the world? He admits, “I don’t have much experience of solo sailing. He has however done a lot to be in with a good chance of succeeding. Firstly, he acquired a brand new boat: Vento di Sardegna, the VPLP-Verdier designed foiler built at the Persico Marine yard originally for the Italian skipper, Andrea Mura and launched last summer. Then, he has been able to work with the best: Michel Desjoyeaux and Mer Agitée, but also with some other top class names from offshore sailing, such as Antoine Mermod and Ludovic Aglaor, among others. Pieter Heerema says he equally likes racing and cruising. “I like going a long way, fishing and grilling what I have caught. I don’t like spending my holidays in a hotel. I like the simple life and above all love being out at sea.” On this first attempt at the Vendée Globe, he is facing a huge personal challenge. And nothing has been left to chance. The boat (called No Way Back, as was the case in the RC44 circuit) has been reinforced and a training programme set up: six weeks in the Canaries to take advantage of the excellent conditions, then two solo transatlantic crossings. One outside of the context of a race between Puerto Calero and Newport and the other racing between New York and Les Sables. “I have a long way to go and I’m no spring chicken, but let there be no mistake: the place I manage to get on finishing the Vendée Globe isn’t that important to me. My challenge is to complete the voyage. Make it all the way around the world alone…”