Conrad Colman: Low risk, high reward

Published on February 20th, 2020

Offshore skipper Conrad Colman, with double nationality from New Zealand and USA, is in a familiar place, battling for budget to compete in the 2020-21 Vendee Globe, the solo non-stop race in IMOCA 60s.

We last saw him in the 2016-17 edition, limping across the finish line after sailing the final 600 miles under jury rig after suffering damage. Now almost four years later, Colman wants to do it again. All he needs is money.

Here he share an update while in France preparing his monohull for the start of the 2020 New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) on June 16.

How far have you got with your project of competing in the next Vendée Globe?

Let’s start with the positive aspects. I have a boat that can perform well in the fleet of boats with straight daggerboards and I have a small team around me working flat out to ensure we are ready on time. However, I still don’t have a large part of the budget required to be able to be there at the Vendee Globe start on November 8th.

But your last round the world race ended up with you earning a lot of support from the general public.

Yes, I think that the decision I took after dismasting off Portugal and wanting to complete the voyage whatever happened was something that moved people. It wasn’t deliberate, but that accident enabled me to achieve something remarkable. I only became aware of that once I was back in Les Sables d’Olonne when I saw the huge crowds waiting for me in the entrance channel. It was particularly moving…

For the next round the world race, you have a new boat…

Yes, and it’s a great story. In 2008, on my first visit to France, I went to Les Sables d’Olonne a few weeks before the start. There was only one boat moored up in the harbor, Roland Jourdain’s Sill & Veolia, a boat designed by Lombard, which had just come out of the yard. I told myself that one day, I would sail on that boat. And she is the one that is there in the shed now.

As in 2016, you plan to do without fossil fuels…

I can’t imagine doing it any other way. It worked out back in 2016 and it matches what I want to argue for. In 2020, there will be two of us taking up the challenge of sailing around the world without any fossil fuels, as Alex Thomson has planned to configure his new IMOCA to be totally self-sufficient. The fact that a sailor hoping to win the race is confident with renewable energy is symbolic. Imagine if we both complete the next round the world race. That will get a lot of people thinking.

What are your sporting goals? How high are you aiming?

I want to be out there fighting it out with the boats with straight daggerboards. In that group, there are some great sailors, reference figures. Damien Seguin and Romain Attanasio are going to be tough to beat and then there is Jean Le Cam, who has an incomparable amount of experience. Clarisse Crémer has a very good boat and is making progress very quickly. She too will be up there. It is going to be a race within the race, but one which is likely to be just as exciting as the battle up at the front of the fleet.

You now need to complete your budget. Have you given yourself any deadlines?

Let’s say that within the next two months, things need to get moving. We have given ourselves a goal and that is to line up at the start of the New York – Vendée. I already have some technical partners supporting me with my environmentally friendly project, such as Marlow Ropes, One Sails and Sicomin, who produce bio-sourced resins.

I keep telling myself that given my experience (three round the world races), my enthusiasm for green energy, and all the support I built up in the last Vendée Globe, it is not a huge risk for any partner. When you see that the investment in a Vendée Globe project practically pays for itself before the race even gets underway, I think I can rightly believe it will happen. So if anyone is interested…


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