The launching of Koji Shiraishi’s new IMOCA DMG MORI encompassed a beautiful baptism that respected Japanese traditions as well as those of the West. After the obligatory bottle of champagne which was broken on on the bow of the Japanese skipper's new monohull, Kojiro Shiraishi and the CEO of DMG MORI also broke open a keg of sake which they then shared with the technical team and guests who were invited for the celebrations. But for Kojiro, now his boat is in the water, the race against the clock really does begin.
Vendée Globe: A new generation boat to race the Vendée Globe, it is a dream come true for you?
Kojiro Shiraishi: To be honest, I did not expect this for one second when I had to abandon the 2016 Vendée Globe after I dismasted. Although I did not really measure the impact of my participation inthe race in Japan because I was the first Asian sailor to take on the Vendée Globe I benefited from some exceptional media coverage in my country. But in saying that I knew i had to go with a completely new project and so the excitement and interest in my participation was a big asset. But beyond that it is down to destiny that made me find a partner who wanted a boat of the latest generation.
VG: But you were aware of the sympathy and emotion that your adventure on the last race evoked?
KS: Actually, I was surprised and obviously very grateful for this following. I was fortunate to be extremely well received by the Vendée Globe organizing team and the other skippers. I think this reception transferred home to Japan and now the Japanese have started to really care about my story. Japan is a country where offshore racing practically does not exist. I benefited from doing something which is very new and exciting.
VG: This time there is a completely new, bigger dimension to the whole project?
KS: Absolutely. In 2016, we had everything to learn. We rented a room at Roland Jourdain’s in Concarneau, we learned and trained on the job. We built a real professional team around the project a bit like the great teams of the Vendée Globe. Since then we maintained our relationship with the Kairos team. At time of the construction of the new boat, in order that we could familiarize ourselves with how to sail a foiler we set up a common training programme on Yannick Bestaven’s monohull out of Cascais in Portugal. It is not impossible that we maybe collaborate again, it is under discussion.
VG: The boat is the sister ship of Charal. Presumably you talked all the time to Jérémie Beyou's team?
KS: Well, working from on the same mould in itself builds links. On a lot of points of detail we have been able to benefit from the expertise of the Charal design office. It saved us time. But each project is autonomous.
VG: You have a boat to play the victory. Have your sporting ambitions changed with this new generation boat?
KS: (laughs) Let's say now I have a great team and a great boat. These are both required to aim for a podium. But I take nothing for granted and don’t lose sight of the fact that sailors will be in front of me who are very highly trained, they benefit from a level of skill and experience that I do not have. So, yes, I will try to do my best, but wait for the results of the first races to measure me against the competition.
VG: In 2016, the boat was called Spirit of Yukoh *. I imagine the story continues?
KS: Yukoh's spirit will always be present with us. Even If my boat bears the name of our sponsor, name Spirit of Yukoh V will be inscribed on the transom. When Yukoh won the BOC Challenge in 1982, it was aboard his fifth boat. Who knows ? The fifth Spirit of Yukoh may bring me luck.
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