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A hero's Mindset - Embrace This Sh*t

Updated: May 17

Sometimes in life things go wrong. Really wrong!


Despite thorough planning and your best efforts, you can find yourself in what feels like a hopeless situation. It is hugely frustrating and disappointing and can feel scary and overwhelming. You may not be able to prevent or avoid the situation from happening, but you can choose how to deal with it. 


Getting back on top as quickly as possible takes mental strength, showing the resilience and determination of a true hero. This is what happened to Ollie Heer – a single handed Swiss sailor, from Zurich during The Transat CIC, a solo, non-stop race from France to New York. And while he is still limping his boat to New York under a limited sail plan he wants to share his story with you.............


“At 2am in the morning, of Sunday 5th May, in 40 knots of wind, my autopilot failed, sending the boat into an uncontrolled gybe in huge 6 metre waves. This resulted in a severe ‘knock-down’ (when the boat is pushed over on its side) and then I got pinned down by the waves.”


Ollie experienced an extremely severe knock-down, where he and the boat were thrown upside down and the mast of his yacht submerged below the water line for what seemed like hours but was most likely just a few moments. In the middle of the night, in pitch darkness and a raging storm, Ollie had to walk on the ceiling to get out on deck, to regain control of the yacht. During this time all the electronics shut down.


"I was no longer racing, I was in survival mode"

Ollie describes the race “Before my incident, the racing was full on. The conditions were brutal. I was sailing with two reefs in the main and a J2 downwind in 40 knots and the boat was fully powered up. The Transat CIC is known as the toughest solo transatlantic race there is. Almost a quarter of the IMOCA fleet had to retire this year so it definitely lived up to its name. Obviously, the knock down on May 4th was a big disappointment, it meant my race was over and it was very frustrating, and there are so many question marks. But the first couple of days were just firefighting. I had so many problems to sort out on the boat that I didn’t have time to analyse it. I wasn’t really racing then; it was more of a survival mode.”


Immediately after the knockdown and for 24 hours, still facing brutal sailing conditions Ollie ran downwind whilst he assessed the damage. With no power there was no communications with the outside world, no computer to look at weather data, no autopilot so he had to hand steer, no water-maker and no bilge pump to remove water from below decks. The world become a very dark and scary place. Ollie resorted to the emergency satellite phone to inform the team of the situation and reported he was “battered and bruised but not badly hurt" but that there was significant damage to the sails, inside the boat is a mess and there was a complete power blackout on board.

Ollie worked relentlessly in rough seas to regain control of the boat and rig a temporary wiring solution from the solar panels, to power his communication and navigation systems and run the all-important water-maker.


"I'm stuck"

Two days following the knockdown, as Ollie started to accept life onboard and make way, slowly, to New York he got stuck in a freezing cold, foggy wind-hole. To make matters worse, this was his birthday and the day he was supposed to make landfall in the States.

Without enough wind to sail he was stuck. Without enough sun to power the solar panels he couldn’t use his electronic equipment and had no communications. This lull was an extremely difficult period to handle. Ollie felt useless, the situation seemed hopeless and he was extremely cold, wet, exhausted and mentally drained. With time to think, his mind started to race and this period was almost more difficult than the periods of heavy weather, as he started to deconstruct the situation, analyse and ask the ‘whys’.


"Embrace this Sh*t"

During this time, the team arranged for Ollie to speak with Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Jenewein, his mental performance coach and supporter of Oliver Heer Ocean Racing. Wolfgang is an incredible Swiss cross-fit athlete, Professor at the University of St Gallen, author in Harvard Business magazine, and mindset coach for many senior European business leaders and extreme sports people.

He advised Ollie there is only one thing you can embrace this situation. 

Wolfgang helped Ollie to remember that feeling angry or resentful would just drain his energy. But it isn't not about pretending to be ok and struggling on, it is really about accepting the situation as quickly as possible and moving forward in a constructive manner. By looking within himself, Ollie was able to identify and focus on his inner motivations and find something positive from the situation.


At his lowest point, Ollie wrote “Embrace this sh*t” in large letters on the wall of his yacht, to remind him to stay focussed on accepting his situation rather than fighting against it, and to find the positives and dig even deeper for the motivation to continue.


"I've accepted it. Offshore racing is all about problem solving" 

Now, 8 days later and still at sea Ollie comments “Of course it is always a massive blow when something like this happens and it is very difficult to find the positives, but I try. For me, being 180 degrees upside down in the conditions was a lesson which is invaluable for the future – I’ve learned so much the last couple of days, it has taught me lessons which you can only learn when you are actually experiencing them.


“Saturday 11th was the last very windy night. It was 40 knots upwind, very demanding I had to hand steer all the time. At this point I was bitterly exhausted, I could see that I had 18 hours of storms ahead of me and I had to rise to the challenge and had no choice but to get on with it, it took everything I had. Now I’ve tacked, and the next few days should be quite nice sailing conditions. 10-18 knots on a broad reach, I can point at the next waypoint which is the finish line.  The difficult bit is over, the next few days should be easy and enjoyable sailing so I can preserve the boat and recover myself and get some strength for the last day when it’s predicted to get windy again.”


My motivation for sure is the Vendée Globe selection, I know that I must finish the race, and build the miles, but it’s not just about that, it is about getting the boat and myself back safely to land and proving to myself that despite everything I am not a quitter.  Even if I wanted to retire there are not many ports close by, so crossing the finish and heading to Newport is not actually a lot of extra distance. All this together; collecting the miles for the Vendée Globe and seeing my wife and team back on land, and how close I am to my dream, gives me the motivation to keep going.


“Now I am in a state where I have accepted it. Offshore sailing is all about problem solving, problems will always come, it isn’t a question of if, but when, and then it how you choose to deal with them and for me it's to “Embrace this sh*t”.”


With a respite and some sunshine after five days of fog, Ollie is now calm, collected and fully in control of both the boat and his emotions.  


Over the past week Ollie has received a huge amount of support from his followers and corporate partners. Join us and follow the rest of this story on social media and via the online race tracker.


With just 575 miles still to go we are all extremely proud of his heroic efforts and cheering him all the way to the finish.  


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1 comment

1 Comment

May 14

Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, OLLIE, from the 7sB - the most amazing class ever!😎

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