The first Japanese skipper in the history of the Vendée Globe, Kojiro Shiraishi was unable to finish the last edition due to his boat dismasting. Since then, Kojiro and his Spirit of Yukoh have been based in the land of the Rising Sun, which has enabled the Japanese people to understand what exactly a solo round the world voyage on an IMOCA entails. Kojiro Shiraishi now wishes to take part in the 2018 Route du Rhum, as well as some of the other races in the IMOCA calendar, and hopes to become the first Asian to complete the Vendée Globe in 2020-2021…


- Hi Kojiro, can you tell us what you have been up to and give us some news about your Spirit of Yukoh?

As far as I’m concerned, the news is very good. Just after losing my mast in the Vendée Globe, I was very worried that my sponsors would think again after seeing me retire, but the opposite happened. They were of course disappointed, but practically all of my sponsors reassured me that they wished to repeat the experience and sponsor me over the coming years. That is why it was so important for me to bring the boat home to Japan to show her to those who had backed me. We loaded the boat up for a voyage between South Africa and Japan soon after I retired. We brought out to Japan an old mast from Southampton, as well as a container that our project leader, Charles brought from France to Japan. The whole team got together again in Japan for the arrival of the container in May - June in order to step the mast and fit the keel, etc.


Have you been doing any sailing in Japan?

I did a lot of sailing this summer in Japan for PR operations and in races. More importantly, each time we had open days to present the boat, more than 300 people came to take a look at her. She is the first IMOCA in Japan, so there was a lot of interest in her. For the races, there were problems, as the mast was too big to go under the bridges in Japan. This hadn’t been a problem before. I set sail, but then had to retire from the races. It was tough for the race directors.


How do the Japanese feel about your boat and the Vendée Globe?

The first reaction we tend to see with the Japanese is that they find it hard to understand how I can possibly sail this boat alone. They are impressed by the height of the mast and by the speed of the boat. My Vendée Globe was a great opportunity to publicise this race in my country. During the race, I did one live broadcast a week with a major TV channel (TV Asahi) on prime time TV, and the national broadcaster (NHK) came up with an hour-long documentary about everything involved in the Vendée Globe. It is partly down to them that I was able to find some new sponsors and talks are still ongoing to allow me to continue this experience after it all ended so soon before.


- What are your plans now for sailing?

We’re thinking about how to bring the boat back to France from Japan in March next year. We intend to carry out a major refit, bringing her up to date and fitting a new mast, etc. I’m hoping to compete in the 2018 Route du Rhum. It is important for me to become the first Japanese entrant in this legendary race. And then, there are other IMOCA races to gain as much experience as possible.


- Would you like to return to the Vendée Globe in 2020?

Of course! I was the first Japanese competitor to take part in the race. I now want to be the first one to finish.


Source: Mer et Média