The Vendée Globe is considered by many to be the toughest yachting event in the world, a single-handed non-stop race that starts and ends in France and can take over 75 days to complete. Boris Hermann, the German-born yachtsman who races for the Yacht Club de Monaco, is currently vying to finish first, amidst fierce competition.
Holder of several world records, Herrmann, 39, is one of the fastest yachtsmen in the world, having completed a circumnavigation of the globe in an astonishing 47 days. The Vendée Globe includes a lap around Antarctica where he will encounter huge storms, surges caused by prematurely melting ice caps, and invasions of seaweed, all trying to sink his high tech boat, Seaexplorer.
The carbon fiber yacht is "lightning-fast, incredibly complex, and inhumanly sparse" to save weight. The race only takes place every four years and not every entrant crosses the finish line. The years of preparation include intense physical training, weather modeling, and running programs that attempt to predict exact sea conditions along the route.
The course covers over 24,296 nautical miles and Herrmann is traveling at speeds of up to 38 knots. On a grueling journey like this he is pitched back and forth between "total exhaustion and indescribable euphoria," as really rough weather can mean he dare not sleep a wink.
For all these reasons completing the Vendée Globe is considered the oceangoing equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest, and the winner immediately becomes a star of international renown, with sponsorships and other honors bestowed at their feet.
Part of Herrmann's mission is also to advance the cause of climate science, and he's carrying a full onboard laboratory that feeds researchers data on the oceanic conditions in real time, providing invaluable information. A hero indeed.