After 60 days at sea, Pieter Heerema aboard No Way Back has passed the halfway mark of the Vendée Globe. A strategic point for the Dutch navigator who is participating for the first time in this solo, non-stop and unassisted sailing race around the world. As many of his competitors, Pieter Heerema has experienced many technical issues over the past two months aboard his latest generation Imoca including a recurring autopilot problem. Also, he has had to face difficult and complicated weather conditions. Currently 17th in the provisional general ranking but motivated by the Dutch enthusiasm that his challenge arises, Pieter continues his race with the same objective he had on departure: to full bring this round the world sailing race.
Pieter, what is your state of mind halfway through the Vendée Globe?
“I’m ready for the second half of the race, both physically and mentally. From a competition point of view, during the 60 days of racing, I have rarely been in contact with my competitors and my various technical concerns have forced me to make major detours and slowdowns. Today I am sailing at 60% of No Way Back’s potential but I still do not dare to push her to her maximum. The autopilot is now working again but the problems have still not been fully resolved. For me, the Vendée Globe has become a journey around the world on an uncomfortable and difficult racing boat. I do not forget my goal to return to Les Sables d’Olonne. I will calmly continue this challenge, try to circumvent complicated and muscular weather conditions, avoid taking unnecessary risks, no matter if it means to make detours or to slow down again.”
Over these 60 days of racing, could you tell what have been the most difficult and happiest times?
“During the first two weeks, I suffered from a severe back injury that put me in a lot of pain and already at that early phase I lost contact with the fleet. Then technical issues followed each other up quickly (rudder, hydrofoil, communication system, autopilot …). By taking part in the Vendée Globe I knew that I would have many problems to solve. I knew the adage but for me “a problem a day” is out of fashion and should no longer exist. It kind of accepts bad preparation and bad quality of work by contractors and installers of equipment. Fortunately, there are also calm moments aboard No Way Back and the Dutch enthusiasm and messages of support really touch me. I get many encouragement messages. In Holland, people have become very much interested in the Vendée Globe. I hope that my participation will eventually lead to more solo sailing projects and to more future participants from the Netherlands in this race. I’m not sure I’ll be back in 4 years as a competitor but maybe as a support or coach for a young Dutch skipper.”
Is this enthusiasm that motivated you to continue the adventure?
“Yes, my country’s enthusiasm was decisive to continue in the Vendée Globe. After Cape Leeuwin, I hesitated and wanted to stop but then I radically swung into a new perspective. The one of finishing the race. No matter how many days it will take. Today I do not care anymore, I am in the back of the fleet and battle with the oldest Imoca of the fleet. but i have a severely crippled boat. It’s a shame because No Way Back is an excellent boat, it was superbly built at Persico in Italy, the new foils are fantastic and my sail set is ideal for my practice. My worry is really the electronics on board.”
Did you follow your competitors’ races?
“Not all of them. I looked at those who were not too far from me. Some tracks are surprising. Sometimes I’m surprised to see that some competitors deliberately choose to go through strong lows with all the risk of breaking or stopping that includes. When you are a rookie in the Vendée Globe, in my point of view, the first objective is to finish. On a second or third participation, you can come for a result and for speed. Anyway, that’s what I try to do.”
How went the end of year celebrations aboard No Way Back?
” I have not had much time for it since the beginning of the adventure. For now, I have not watched a single m
ovie, listened to music or read a book. Life on board is very intense and dedicated to the smooth running of the boat. For the holiday season, I had planned “improved” meals with special foods. Unfortunately, my New Year’s meal leaked so I had to throw it away. For the Christmas meal, it is necessary to have calm weather to prepare it so it still waits in its containers for the right time to be eaten. Fortunately, my daughter had offered me Danish herring which I enjoyed very much. It was wonderful. I had my wife and family on the phone and wished them a great time. And for my employees I had prepared a special Christmas and New Year video.”
Pieter Heerema and the whole No Way Back Sailing Team thank you for your interest in this project and wish you a wonderful happy new year and favourable winds in all your projects.