Recently named “Rolex Sailor of the Year” in Canada, the Canadian skipper Eric Holden has launched the “Canadian Ocean Racing” project with the aim of competing in the 2016 Vendée Globe.
If he completes the voyage, he will become the first Canadian to do so in the Vendée Globe. Eric Holden intends to take part in the Everest of the seas aboard the 60-foot “Spirit of Canada”, aboard which his fellow Canadian Derek Hatfield lined up in 2008. He tells us more.
You recently announced your intention of taking part in the 2016 Vendée Globe. Can you tell us more about your project?
Canadian Ocean Racing launches on the heels of a very successful, but different, round the world race. From 2013-2014, I skippered one of 12 boats on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, sailing over 40,000 miles in 11-months. This race gave amateur sailors a unique opportunity to experience offshore sailing and some to even circumnavigate the globe. As the first Canadian Skipper of the Race and the winner, I wanted to share my journey with fellow Canadians and inspire them to dream big about offshore sailing. I pursued an opportunity to secure the use of O Canada, ex-Spirit of Canada (Owen Clarke 2006), through the support of Wind Athletes Canada for this program.
While the establishment of this project will ultimately support me in my campaign for the Vendée Globe, Canadian Ocean Racing is much more than just that. I founded this program to promote the sport of offshore racing in Canada and offer the opportunity, access and mentorship to aspiring Canadian sailors. During our Launch Tour this Spring, we will be taking on a small group of young Canadian talent for a training journey from West to East Coast Canada. Eager sailors are also being provided the opportunity to work as part of our shore support team in preparation for races. I want to make offshore racing more accessible to my fellow Canadians, so we are building this program on the generous support of private donors and corporate partners.
Have you already found any partners? What sort of partnership are you looking for?
Canadian Ocean Racing is working with partners that share our mission: bringing Canada to the forefront of offshore racing. Our launch partners include Wind Athletes Canada and Sail Canada, who work with us on securing donations and building support for our program. We are currently in talks with potential corporate partners who are interested in aligning themselves with Canada’s premier offshore racing team for branding, events and content marketing. There is still an opportunity for title sponsors to partner with Canadian Ocean Racing, we are open to new ideas and relationships that can help us build this program.
Have you had any experience of sailing on a 60-foot IMOCA before?
Apart from working in the shore team of Spirit of Canada during her launch, this will be my first Open 60 program. I have sailed on a series of high performance boats in offshore races, and have already successfully completed one circumnavigation with Clipper on their 70ft one-design fleet.
What is your training schedule and which races do you intend to compete in?
Our training schedule will begin immediately once we launch O Canada out of Vancouver this Spring. The Launch Tour around North America will serve as Phase One of training, which will conclude with an appearance at the Toronto Pan Am games. This will provide us with 10,000 miles of experience on the boat before our first race. Phase Two of training will include a Transatlantic passage in late Summer 2015, to begin preparations for the Transat Jacques Vabre. We are currently intending to compete in both the Transat Jacques Vabre and BtoB races at the end of this year. It is likely that we will compete in the other IMOCA Ocean Masters races in the first half of 2016. The rest of the year will be dedicated to solo training for the Vendee Globe. My intention is to get as much exposure and competitive opportunity in preparation for the Vendee Globe in November 2016.
What image do Canadians have of the Vendée Globe?
Canada has had two previous entrants in the Vendee Globe, first with the tragic loss of Gerry Roufs in 1997, and Derek Hatfield’s retirement in 2008. There is a sense of unfinished business with this race and Canada is eager to have its first success.
Which Vendée Globe sailor do you feel closest to?
Canada has named it’s offshore trophy in honour of Gerry Roufs. I have twice been honoured with this award and would be proud to continue the legacy he started.
If you had to pick one personal memory of the Vendée Globe, what would it be?
I have first hand experience from the Clipper Race how remote the oceans are and how often our competitors are our only source of rescue. On countless occasions Vendee Globe competitors have come to the aid of others, often at significant risk to themselves and their ambitions for the race. This is a tradition to be proud of, both for the event and our sport.
Will you be getting any advice from Derek Hatfield about the boat and about the Vendée Globe?
Derek has been supportive of the launch of this new campaign and is happy that this Canadian built boat will have another opportunity to compete in the Vendee Globe.