For New Zealander Conrad Colman, this Transat Jacques Vabre-Normandie Le Havre is his first return to the IMOCA racecourse since last year’s Route du Rhum.

With new sponsorship from Mail Boxes Etc, the sailor who finished 16th in the 2016-17 Vendée Globe, is enjoying every minute of his time at sea alongside 2021 Mini Transat runner-up, Fabio Muzzolini of France. We checked in with Colman as MBE – a 2007-vintage VPLP-Verdier design – surfed towards Cape Finisterre in 26th position.

Conrad, tell us what it feels like to be out racing again after the long battle you have had to get your campaign up and running and now with a new sponsor?

"It feels amazing to be out at sea again after such a long fight to get my project up and running. You know, when I am sitting here watching the boat cruise along – we are currently approaching Cape Finisterre in a pretty good position in the fleet – it makes me think about all of the hard nights and long days in the boatyard when I was sanding or preparing or gluing, just doing everything that was required to get this boat operational again. I’m sitting here thinking about all that work and enjoying an incredible sense of satisfaction."

How tough were the first 24 hours? We have seen a handful of boats have to divert for repairs. How did you and Fabio find the conditions in the early part of the race?

"Well, I am sailing with quite old sails on my boat. I have a new jib, the J2, and a new spinnaker – both new last year for the Route du Rhum. Otherwise I have sails from 2019 or 2016 on board, and so we’re certainly taking reefs when appropriate and doing everything to keep the sails in one piece and I am delighted to have made it through the worst of the winds unscathed. The boat is in perfect working order and myself and Fabio are in pretty good shape too and trying to catch up on sleep and get ready for the challenging decisions that are coming up, as to which way to go."

Do you think the long wait for the start has affected the way you have tackled the first challenges, or does it all feel fairly normal now you are finally on your way to Martinique?

"I don’t think the delayed start affected the way we approached the race. We were always going to be conservative in the first few days, when there was a risk of breaking the boat or the sails. So far we have made it through without any damage. My philosophy is always that in the first couple of days you can lose the race, but you can never win the race, and so we were pretty careful not to lose the race in the first 24 hours. In order to do that we had to keep the boat in one piece and go well."

© © Jean-Louis Carli / Alea

Finally, Conrad, tell us about your strategy for the next few days. Are you committed to the southerly route and how do you see it panning out?

"In terms of tactics to come – basically, we need to go down the Portuguese coast and then decide whether we take the middle option or the southern option. The idea of going north into more of these really strong depressions and cold fronts does not excite either three of us – me, Fabio or the boat. So we will be looking at an option that will allow us to stay in good health and still go fast in the right direction."

Thanks Conrad and good luck for the rest of the race.

Ed Gorman