Milestone skipper

Kojiro Shiraishi is the first-ever Asian skipper to complete the Vendée Globe, the famous non-stop solo race around the world.

16 February 2021


The 53-year-old Japanese solo skipper of DMG MORI crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 10:52:58 hours UTC Thursday 11 February to take 16th place in the Vendée Globe.

Shiraishi’s elapsed time for his race is 94 days 21 hours 32 minutes and he finishes 14 days 17 hours 48 minutes 10 seconds behind Yannick Bestaven and 2 hours 56 minutes behind Arnaud Boissieres.

Completing the course is the culmination of a 34-year dream, a major triumph for Shiraishi, who spent more than seven days completing major repairs to a potentially race-ending tear in his mainsail that occurred just six days after the start on 8 November. Since then, the Japanese skipper has 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 his 20 years of ocean-racing experience contributed to an accomplished race in his new generation VPLP IMOCA monohull, a hull sistership to Jérémie Beyou’s Charal. 


Like others in the fleet, Shiraishi started his Vendée Globe short on solo training and preparation miles, his only solo race completed pre-start was the Vendée–Arctique–Les Sables d’Olonne race in which he finished 10th. 

“It was truly wonderful, and a longer adventure than originally planned, but arriving and seeing all these familiar faces and people here is really very heartwarming,” said an elated Kojiro.  

“It is a miracle; I really did not think that my mainsail would hold, and it is truly incredible that it pulled through and I have been able to complete this wonderful adventure.”

Kojiro said: “To finish was my primary object objective, but pleasing my sponsor, my team and all the fans who have encouraged me throughout is what makes me the proudest.”

Shiraishi’s success today is inspired by the memory of his mentor, Japanese ocean-racing pioneer Yukoh Tada, who won Class 2 in the BOC Challenge round-the-world race between 1982 and 1983.

As a youngster, Shiraishi was so moved by Tada’s exploits 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 Tada’s house, the pair shared some sake, and Koji’s first sail was with Tada after which he went on to work as his preparateur.

But during the next BOC race, repeated capsizes and technical failures left him a long way behind the leaders. The 61-year-old Tada took his own life in Sydney in 1991. It was the young Kojiro Shiraishi who was charged with taking Tada’s Okera VIII back to Japan.

This IMOCA 60 is Shiraishi’s fifth Spirit of Yukoh, each named in the memory of his mentor who had dreamed of taking part in the Vendée Globe.

Kojiro explained: “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 thirty years to complete the circumnavigation, and I am proud to have been able to fulfil what Yukoh Tada wanted to do,” he explained on arrival.

Shiraishi is delighted to today have completed the race that Tada had so wanted to do but could not find the funding for. Today Koji fulfils a lifelong desire to not just honour but extend Tada’s legacy. But this successful Vendée Globe skipper is also deeply happy to have massively increased awareness and interest in the race in his native Japan.

Kojiro’s first Vendée Globe ended prematurely on 4 December 2016 when he lost the top of the mast of his Spirit of Kukoh and had to retire into Cape Town.

Kojiro pledged to return and complete the Vendée Globe.

With the backing of DMG MORI, Shiraishi built a new IMOCA from the moulds of Charal. The program was managed by Charles Euverte’s organisation. In the early days of the program, Kojiro’s training dovetailed with Yannick Bestaven on the Maître CoQ with the help of Roland Jourdain as coach.

With his new boat only launched in September 2019, the only IMOCA Globe Series race that Kojiro Shiraishi could compete in was last summer’s Vendée Arctic race. Finishing tenth, he qualified for the Vendée Globe, but started the race knowing he was short on hard racing miles and experience with his boat, so remained conservative in his approach over the first week of racing.

But the damage that would affect all of his race occured on the fringes of the tropical storm Theta. A failure of his wind sensor caused his autopilot to stall, causing a series of unexpected gybes. His mainsail tore across the upper leech area and four battens were broken. He spent nearly six days at crawling speeds in light winds repairing the mainsail and the battens. 

“It was a small feat to have managed to repair this sail,” says Kojiro. “Now, I will always have to protect it and look after it carefully until the end. But I am determined to make it to the finish.”

The delay and the compromised speeds because he was forced to always sail with a reefed mainsail, means he found himself deep in the second half of the fleet coming into the southern oceans, but first of all, he was delighted to pass into the Indian Ocean and then sailed a smart, steady and intelligent Pacific, never complaining and nearly always smiling.

“I’m glad the repairs are holding. It’s almost a miracle. On board DMG-MORI Global One, miracles happen every day. It holds up well in squalls, storms and other hazards.

Kojiro said at the end of January: “Every day I am on the water and sailing, I am the happiest person in the world.”

For his patience and dedication, Shiraishi was rewarded with an increasingly close and exciting match within a group of five, tussling with Arnaud Boissières, Alan Roura, Stéphane Le Diraison and Pip Hare, a race within the Vendée Globe that engaged and inspired the experienced Shiraishi until the finish line.

In so doing the pupil, Shiraishi, overtook his mentor and became the first Asian sailor to complete the solo, non-stop, round-the-world race, adding to his own sizeable reputation. 


The stats of Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI GLOBAL ONE)

Theoretical stats

He covered the 24,365 miles of the theoretical course at an average speed of 10.70 knots.

Actual stats

Distance actually covered on the water: 29,067.67 miles at 12.76 knots average. 

Key times

Equator outbound
31st on 27/11/2020 at 05:43 UTC, after 18 days 16 hours 23 minutes of the race, 8 days 16 hours 24 minutes after the leader Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS)

Cape of Good Hope
25th on 12/11/2020 at 10:53 UTC, after 32 days 21 hours 33 minutes of the race, 10 days 11 hours 42 minutes after leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia)

Cape Leeuwin
22nd on 12/24/2020 04:43 UTC, after 45 days 15 hours 23 minutes of race, 10 days 17 hours 17 minutes after leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia)

Cape Horn
21st on 01/13/2021 17:03 UTC, after 66 days 03 hours 43 minutes of the race, 11 days 03 hours 20 minutes after the leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV)

Equator (back)
18th on 01/27/2021 21:48 UTC, after 80 days 08 hours 28 minutes, 11 days 02 hours 36 minutes after leader Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2)

The boat

Architect: VPLP
Site: Multiplast, Vannes
Launched: August 2019

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