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New York Vendée - Race Preview

Updated: May 26


To get to the start line of the New York Vendée, just a mere 10 days is all that is available to Swiss Skipper, Oliver Heer to repair his battered IMOCA yacht and himself ahead of the race starting on Wednesday 29th May in a virtual start line 100 miles offshore of New York.


The Transat CIC race to New York which commenced on Sunday 29 April, from Lorient France, did not quite go to plan.  The objective was to get himself and the boat safely to New York, drama and damage free, but after a solid start, the race developed into an 18-day ordeal that pushed him and his boat to the absolute limit. Once again Heer demonstrated his tenacity and determination, as he fought exhaustion to problem solve, keep racing and limp across the finish line, keeping his Vendée Globe dream precariously alive.


The stakes remain high for the New York Vendée, the final single-handed, transatlantic race of the IMOCA Globe Series. This is Ollie’s last chance to log the vital miles to maintain his position in the Vendée Globe selection table, and secure his place on the Vendée Globe start line, becoming the first Swiss German to ever compete in this ultimate challenge, often called the “Everest of the Seas”.



28 IMOCA Skippers are expected to take part in the New York Vendée. The majority arrived as part of the single-handed Transat CIC race. While most of the IMOCA fleet have enjoyed a three-week turnaround after The Transat CIC, Ollie’s shore crew has been in a race against time.

After experiencing a dramatic near-capsize during The Transat CIC, Ollie took onboard  around 3,000 litres of sea water, had a diesel tank issue and was plunged into a total electrical blackout and engine failure, at 3am in 40 knots, 1000 miles from the nearest land.

Since arriving in Newport on Friday 17th May, Ollie and his technical team have worked round the clock to repair the sails and rigging, identify and resolve the electrical and battery issues, source new parts and consult with local and European suppliers – requiring a video conferencing at 3am to liaise across time zones.


Ollie has been directly involved in these repairs, to ensure the safety, performance and redundancy are adequate to start the New York Vendée Race.


Due to time constraints, he was unable to participate in the Vendée Liberty race in New York City, and adding insult to injury, it is likely he will face a penalty fine from the organising authority for his non-appearance in New York. Another price to pay for keeping the Vendée Globe dream alive.


Ollie explains “Unfortunately, I had to make a conscious choice to forgo the celebrations in New York, to stay and work alongside my team to get the boat in the best possible shape for the race home. With lithium batteries a big part of the issue, safety was my main concern I cannot not take any chances here.  I have been fully involved with the repairs and installation to make sure we are ready. I hope to enjoy a little downtime now ahead of the start of the next race.”


The electrics may be fixed, but there's another constraint: a limited ‘sail wardrobe’.

The knockdown in Transat CIC claimed two sails – the fractional gennaker and the brand new J2.

With no time to replace these sails before the New York Vendée, Ollie will be forced to race with a set of six, instead of eight, sails.

Ollie explains the impact: "I won't be able to optimise for certain wind conditions, mainly between 23-30 knots, but at least I can still sail." 

For the team, there is the longer-term worry of how to replace the J2. Ollie sighs: "It was a brand-new sail from Quantum. I was very happy with it. Replacing it twice this year was definitely not in the plan – or the budget. But it's a critical sail. We need to find a solution, somehow."



The spirit of a true Vendée Globe contender burns brightly in Ollie. It was a tremendous achievement to finish The Transat CIC, a testament to his mental and physical strength, courage and determination.

As the focus shifts to the New York Vendée, Ollie considers his strategy, "Finishing the New York Vendée is all that matters. The Vendée Globe is a long race, almost 90 days and it is important to sail smart, not hard. This is my last chance to practice conservative sailing, to find that sweet spot between speed and preservation of myself and the boat."


The New York Vendee Race starts on Wednesday 29th May 2024 at 14:00 EST (19:00 UK / 20:00 CET). As the virtual start line is 100 miles offshore there will not be any live coverage of the start, but you can follow along on the race tracker and on our facebook and instagram channels.

1 comment

1 Comment

May 26

You can do it!

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