Shiraishi makes Vendee Globe history


Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi pays tribute to mentor Yukoh Tada after becoming the first Asian skipper to ever finish the Vendée Globe solo race around the world.


Kojiro Shiraishi finished 16th in the Vendée Globe. Photo: Yvan Zedda/Alea


Kojiro Shiraishi finished 16th in the Vendée Globe on his IMOCA 60 DMG MORI in an elapsed time of 94 days 21 hours 32 minutes, becoming the first Asian skipper to ever complete the famous non-stop solo race around the world.


“It was truly wonderful and a longer adventure than originally planned, but arriving and seeing so many familiar faces and people was really very heart-warming,” Shiraishi said in Les Sables d’Olonne.


Shiraishi, 53, was inspired by the memory of his mentor Yukoh Tada, the Japanese ocean racing pioneer who won Class 2 in the 1982-83 BOC Challenge round-the-world race but took his own life during the 1990-91 edition.


As a youngster, Shiraishi was so moved by Tada’s exploits that after finding his number in the phone directory, he spent weeks trying to contact him while Tada was working nights as a taxi driver to pay off his racing campaigns. Shiraishi was invited to his house, the pair shared some sake and the youngster’s first sail was with Tada, after which he went on to work as his preparateur.


During Tada’s next BOC Challenge campaign in 1990-91, repeated capsizes and technical failures left him a long way behind the leaders and the 61-year-old took his own life in Sydney. The young Shiraishi was charged with taking Tada’s Okera VIII back to Japan.


Shiraishi’s current IMOCA 60 monohull, launched in September 2019, is his fifth Spirit of Yukoh, each named in the memory of his mentor who was unable to fulfil his own ambition of competing in the Vendée Globe.


“For over 30 years, I have been dreaming of doing this Vendée Globe, ever since Philippe Jeantot invited my master Yukoh Tada to compete in it. It has taken 30 years to complete the circumnavigation and I am proud to have been able to fulfil what Yukoh Tada wanted to do.”


Shiraishi’s first Vendée Globe ended prematurely on December 4, 2016, when he lost the top of the mast and had to retire into Cape Town, pledging to return and complete the Vendée Globe.


Like others in the fleet, Shiraishi started the 2020-21 edition short on solo training and preparation. The only solo race he previously completed on his new VPLP-designed IMOCA 60 was last year’s Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne race, in which he finished 10th.


Shiraishi’s second Vendée Globe didn’t start well, as he spent a week completing major repair to a potentially race-ending tear in his mainsail that occurred just six days after the race start on November 8.


After that, he had to sail cautiously to look after his fragile mainsail, always sailing with one reef in the mainsail. But his patience, positive outlook, mental strength and two decades of ocean racing experience contributed to an accomplished race during which he grew in confidence in his new boat.


“It is a miracle,” he said. “I really didn’t think my mainsail would hold and it’s truly incredible it pulled through and I was able to complete this wonderful adventure. To finish was my primary object objective, but to also please my sponsor, my team and all the fans who have encouraged me is what makes me the proudest.”