Spirit of old master drives sailor in Vendee Globe bid

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 31 Jul 2020

As far as Kojiro Shiraishi is concerned, a Japanese sailing the gruelling Vendee Globe round-the-world race is akin to a Frenchman taking up sumo wrestling.

"It's a miracle," says Shiraishi, pictured, who will return to the epic high seas adventure in November after making his debut four years ago.

Back in 2016, the sailor, who hails from Kamakura, a Pacific coastal town to the south of Tokyo, cut a dash by posing on the quay at the start line dressed in traditional Japanese costume and carrying a ceremonial saber in his belt. Now the 53-year-old has a high-performance boat, sponsors and the status of a professional sailor.

Shiraishi's love of the high seas and single-handed racing was nurtured in his home town. It became a full-blown love affair after meeting mentor Yukoh Tada, the pioneering Japanese yachtsman who committed suicide in 1991.

Each craft sailed by Shiraishi bears the name Spirit of Yukoh.

His first attempt in 2016, when he was the first Asian to take part in the race, ended in disappointment with a demasting on his 10-year-old vessel in the Indian Ocean.

"It was a last-minute project, even getting to the start line was a great victory," he added.

"Being Japanese and trying to do the Vendee Globe is extremely difficul - it's a like a Frenchman leaving for Japan to become a sumo wrestler. It was a miracle!"

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