Riechers wears the benefits of his years in the Mini Class and in Class 40 well. His infectious sense of humour, a quick with which sometimes runs away with him, mask a deep seated determination and a hard earned knowledge base which ensures he knows what he wants as the constituents of his Vendée Globe programme. And with a 2015 Barcelona World Race under his belt he has the experience to deliver a competitive result.
His Owen Clarke IMOCA 60, formerly Javier 'Bubi' Sanso's Acciona, was purchased as a damaged hull - Sanso capsized 350 miles from the Azores, close to completing the 2012-13 race - and was being refitted in a yard in Lisbon, Portugal. This winter the boat will be completely be brought up to date - foils and a new rig being fitted - and should be ready for a March launch followed by a month of sea trials from Cascais before the first IMOCA race next spring.
Riechers is pleased to have finished his Mini career with a podium result, accepting that carrying on to pursue the pinnacle MiniTransat victory which eludes him would be wasted time, " I have been second in the Mini Transat, all my singlehanded finishes with the boat have been on the podium, and I think if I carried on in the mini that would be to the exclusion of doing the Vendee Globe. Doing it again with the chance of finising fourth would be pretty stupid. If it's good, don't touch it again." But, like other successful 'Made in Mini' skippers, the apprenticeship in the Mini has been essential learning, " The Mini taught me that you can break boats. So, go with the capability and the performance of the boat. It is a good thing for the IMOCA 60, it is the same. You overcook it you break it. The mini is just the same. If you push too hard you destroy the boat, not like a Figaro or a Class 40. The Class 40 was good because the boats are easy, they are a nice size and the competition is good. On the techncial side they are not that interesting like a Mini or an IMOCA, but they are easy to sail so it is a bit like a holiday boat."
Riechers speaks with the benefit of success in the Class 40 too, he won the Solidaire du Chocolat, and the Atlantic Cup, was second in the Quebec Saint Malo, third in the Transat Jacques Vabre and sixth in the Route du Rhum.
He laughs, "So the same thing applies, don't touch it again."
New foils for 2020
The boat is in Lisbon is being refitted to the new rule with the required new ballast configuration now fitted. The next step is adding foils. Short term Riechers and his team are finalising the purchase of a second generation set from a 2016-17 podium finisher. Working with foils ace Martin Fischer (GC32, Groupama, A Class cats, Luna Rossa) and designer Merf Owen, the intention is to fit a latest generation set of foils and a replacement, higher volume bow next winter. But the initial objective is to get out, get foiling, race miles and get qualified for the Vendée Globe.
He contends, "Everyone knows that the generation of foils being fitted now will be succeeded by the time of the next Vendee Globe, so the new generation like the new Charal, are much more perfomant. And we have to decide in the next two weeks if we go for a wing or a spreader mast. At the moment I err on the side of a wing mast we can reinforce like we want, because it is a 2011 boat, and we know that the new foils are creating and enormous righting moment, I think we have a card to play there for us. We have the freedom to add a lot more strength and resistance to the mast, so we can push the boat much harder. That will be interesting in the NE trades and in the south. Hard core reaching we can have the same performance as the 2020 boats, at say between 90 and 130 in over 20-25kts of wind."
After the Jacques Vabre the intention is to add a new bow, going max volume and then new foils. " Definitely we will go for new foils after that. " he affirms, "The secondhand foils just now are just to get going and get results and experience. I can then give good feedback to Martin and Merf and that is important. I think the boat has huge potential because it is narrow, 5.53m compared with the new boats which are 5.45m and this boat does not have a lot of extra wetted surface which is good for foiling. The disadvantage is the boat is still a little bit heavier than the new boats, about 300 or so kilos. But it is in the ballpark." Riechers has a clear objective, particularly in the knowledge he has always - he says - been able to make boats go fast and can endure the suffering necessary to be successful, " I am not doing this Vendee Globe to win. I am hoping for maybe a top five, an outsider for the podium, the darkest of dark horses!"
" I think I can get a little bit more speed out of any boat. In my whole sailing career, from the beginning, I have never had the fastest boat but I have been winning races and so there is something there that I must be capable of doing. I think I am good at sacrificing myself. Like in the Mini It was really difficult to sail. In the Mini Transat just as in the Azores race I had two and a half to three hours sleep a day, keeping that rhythm for two and a half or three weeks you have to be able to sacrifice yourself. That is tough. I hated that boat at the finish, well 12 hours before the finish. I am good on preparation. And I am good at the MacGuyyver aspects, fixing and keeping going. I was really proud of fixing a huge hole in my mini in 2011 just after being hit at the start, repairing hole in the night and still being first on the first day of the race. I was really proud of that. I fixed it inside and outside during the first night at sea, a real big patch, and next morning I was first." He adds, "It's a funny thing I always do well when people crash into my boat. I fix it and do well. On the other hand when I am in the yard I am not allowed to do anything because it is always such an ugly mess. And at home in the house I am hopeless, my wife has to do everything. Preparing meals I am good by the way. But at sea I am good.
Two German Sailors on the start line
And for the first time the Vendée Globe could have not one, but two German skippers, both with competitive projects capable of a good result. German Rivalry?
" It will be good. Really good. I am looking forwards to some internal competition with Boris. I think it is great that after such a long time there are two Germans. And apart from making a good result I definitely want to beat Boris. I think he definitely wants to beat me. And that is good for both of us because it lifts our performance. We get along well together, and the competition is good. We are not best friends, we are what they say in France as 'pots'. We have done the same things but rarely raced against each other. 2011 we did the Normandy Channel Race and I won in the Classs 40. I won (laughs)."
And meantime he confirms he is in a secure position financially, with investors he says who are in for the long term, " For the moment I have two private investors. From next year we will have sponsors. That is in progress, probably three sponsors. The financial side is secure. We can be competitive but the more money we can get the more competive we can be. The new Martin Fischer foils are yes, the new bow I will need to find more money, Euros 200,000 or something like that. But we have investors who can make sure we are competitive. They believe in me, the project and the boat. They believe in the success of the project and in the durability of the project. For them it is not only a one-off, doing the Vendee and then, phewwt, out. They want to do the Volvo after. I would love to do it with Boris, Robert Staniek and add a crazy guy like Ryan Breymaier and maybe Isobelle Joschke and off you go. Great team......."