After retiring into Cape Town in 2016 when the top of his mast broke, Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi is back with a brand new VPLP design which is a sistership to Jérémie Beyou’s Charal. His is a relatively late programme, the boat was launched last year but Shiraishi has not done many miles on the boat and his only race was the Vendée Arctique on which he finished 10th. But the effervescent Japanese skipper tells is this project will go through to the next race in 2024.
Two weeks to go before the start, how are you?
Good. I always feel good. Always.
Do you feel pressure with this new boat, competing at a higher level, with not much time on the boat?
No. We only have the time left that we have, so really we can only do what we can do. We are ready for what comes to me.
Are you happy with your preparations?
It is a brand new boat and we need more time to prepare and so on but I am not really happy with it, but the time that is left is all we have and so I am ready. I have made up my mind that I know that the boat is not fully ready but I will go and get on with it anyway
Will your lack of miles affect the way you sail?
It is just that physically speaking it will be a tough race, the boat is very powerful and very fast but I will just go carefully and try not to break things.
So you will sail your own race a bit to start with?
No. This is a race and I will be always trying to do my best. The Vendée Arctique was a great race, a great rehearsal for the Vendée Globe and I hope mu Vendée Globe will be like that. The more pressure is not from other boats, it is the routing that my computer shows me because often it goes faster than I maybe want and so I set the routings at 80, 90 and 100 per cent and usually try to be going faster than 100 per cent, but sometimes it is faster than I want.
Seasickness was a problem before, it is worse on this boat?
This boat is so much more physical than before, it is so tough. And the seasickness to start with is worse, especially because you spend so much more time at the computer. Before you used to come in, look at the computer, on-off, in-ou, and now you spend much more time inside at the computer and that is not good for the seasickness, the nausea. I prefer to be outside. And I prefer to go back to the Apollo space era when it was all switches, now inside it is all touch panels! It is Space X. With the coachroof it is safer, yes, but the view we get is much smaller and so you don’t feel the elements. I like to go outside and feel the elements, especially doing the daily checks.The view is so small that I need to go outside and connect with the elements. And I wonder what Alex does. I find real pleasure when I go outside and do my daily checks. This is where I find myself and enjoy it.
What is the longest you have been on the boat? And do you have real confidence in the boat?
Eleven days on the Vendée-Arctique. Well we have strengthened the boat adding some kilos of carbon on to the hull to make it stronger. And most of the problems I had during the Vendée Arctique was due to the electronics. And this is now going well and working find. But we have never done enough testing. You can never do enough. But what the Vendée Arctique brought me was all the troubleshooting and testing.
In terms of your return for your sponsor return, where are you?
The sponsor is really happy, for now at least. Dr Mori, the CEO of the MORI Group is very happy with the return. He just wants for us to finish this Vendée Globe so we can on something new after this.
It is an ongoing deal?
Yes. Dr Mori hopes to for us to have a long term programme. This is not a one time shot. He asked us already to do the Vendée Globe in four years. We built the boat and the team from scratch and this was so much effort he does not want to just do it once. He does not want to have this whole structure and for it to stop.
Where does that come from? And is the company still doing well?
The first time I met him I told him I wanted to have a long term programme, a structure like this and he agreed. And, yes, the company has had some damage from the corona virus crisis but DMG MORI sponsored events like autosports which have been cancelled and this Vendée Globe is going on so they are very happy it has not been cancelled.
What activities do you deliver in terms of activation?
There have been lots of customers of DMG MORI visiting the boat here and we explained them the project. There are more coming from Japan and Germany for the start and all the PR we did before the virus in February was good. And DMG MORI is a global company and next year we will bring the boat to Japan. We will do PR tour in Japan for clients there. And DMG MORI focus their marketing strategies Business to Business and so may not be so visible. .
Has your skills and experience improved since last race?
I don’t know if my sailing has really improved. The boat is so different it is hard to relate the two boats to one another. But I have out together the best team and the best organisation.
How many miles have you sailed?
Well the Vendée Arctic, and I did 3000 miles alone and then day sailing and a few weeks before coming here. So, probably around 10,000. It is all the same for these new boats, we have lost so much time with the corona virus with the two races which were cancelled.