Another important step in the internationalisation of the Vendée Globe. For the first time, an Asian is ideally placed to be at the start in November. Thanks to a neat trajectory and a very decent seventh place in the New York – Vendée transatlantic race, Kojiro Shiraishi has obtained his sailing qualification for the Everest of the seas aboard Spirit of Yukoh. This Bruce Farr designed boat from 2007, built in England, is none other than Alex Thomson’s ex-Hugo Boss (previously called BT and Veolia). A good all-round boat that is reliable and which, in the hands of Roland Jourdain, won the 2010 Route du Rhum. She’s a fine boat, which still performs well, and was bought a few months ago from Nicolas Boidevézi, when the latter was finally forced to give up on his Vendée Globe project.
Kojiro Shiraishi’s qualification was quite something for someone from the land of the Rising Sun, as the president of the Japanese sailing federation explained. He has welcomed the future participation in the Vendée Globe of his compatriot seeing it as “the third big news story for Japanese yachting after the decision to award the Olympics to Tokyo in 2020 and the presence of SoftBank Japan in the 2017 America’s Cup.”
“A huge pleasure and a great honour”
At the age of 49, Kojiro Shiraishi has successfully carried out his big entrance exam with humility and a clear vision. At the finish of the New York – Vendée transatlantic race in Les Sables d’Olonne, the sailor from Tokyo explained, “I managed to complete this transatlantic race without breaking anything. That was my priority. It was a huge pleasure and a great honour to sail in this race alongside some serious contenders for the Vendée Globe. In just two months, the whole team has worked very well and it is thanks to them that all this has been possible. I got to know my boat, and feel at one with her. I’m almost ready for the Vendée Globe. This boat is very fast and by getting to grips with her even more, by training more, I will be able to go even faster.” Having said that, not only does Kojiro intend “to be the first Japanese sailor to take part (in the Vendée Globe), but not the last,” but he also wants to be really competitive and try to get the best position in the rankings and not just complete the round the world voyage in adventure mode.
He knows his way around
His sailing CV clearly explains his motivation, as Kojiro Shiraishi is far from being unknown in the world of ocean racing, including in Europe. A few years ago, we saw him in crews on Bruno Peyron’s and Lionel Lemonchois’s giant multihulls, including Pacific crossing records. Above all, Kojiro has already sailed around the world. At the age of 26, he became the youngest sailor to complete a solo round the world voyage. We should not forget either that ten years ago he finished as runner-up in the 2006 Velux Five Oceans, the solo round the world race with stopovers. He completed the voyage in 118 days behind a certain Bernard Stamm, another leading figure in the Vendée Globe. Sailing alone around the world is therefore something he knows about already.
Finally, and it is not just an anecdote, Kojiro Shiraishi will be representing a certain philosophy. Because if his boat is called Spirit of Yukoh, it is to pay homage to his mentor, Yukoh Tada. This legendary sailor, taxi driver, saxophonist and Buddhist, won the first BOC Challenge in his category in 1983. Kojiro was one of his pupils, until Yukoh committed suicide in 1991. It is in his memory that Kojiro Shiraishi wants once again to sail solo around the world. It’s bound to be a great story. One of those that will become part of the legend of the Vendée Globe.