Shiraishi the first Asian solo sailor to secure a podium finish

Six weeks ago, the thought of an unknown Japanese sailor beating solo sailing legends Mike Golding and Alex Thompson in the Velux 5 Oceans would have been inconceivable. And yet? after 46 days and 12,000 nm, rank outsider Kojiro Shiraishi arrived into Fremantle yesterday to take second place in the first leg of the race, entering the history books as the first Asian skipper to secure a podium finish in Class 1 of a single-handed circumnavigation.

Sailing for the first time in an Open 60 and having only acquired his boat,Spirit of Yukoh, in May, Shiraishi’s performance has been an outstanding one, through unexpectedly harsh and challenging conditions.

Speaking from the dockside yesterday evening, he commented, ‘I feel very grateful to finish in second and I owe this to my shore crew, who are a fantastic team. I also feel honoured to have finished behind Bernard, he was very fast! The first storm was the worst moment of the leg, especially as I was sea sick as well, it was unbelievably hard. With incredible head winds, I never expected to use my storm jib so early.’

‘I lost more weight than I expected, but unlike Bernard I have enough food onboard still to do another leg. I am desperate to for a beer and a shower. There are only minor problems, but I have to talk to the bank about budget!’

The ‘Silent Assassin’ has battled through some incredible challenges since leaving Bilbao back in October. He showed his skill, strength and determination when he survived the storm in the Bay of Biscay that hit the fleet after the start. Whilst four out of the six boats were forced back into shore to make repairs to their storm damaged yachts, Kojiro pushed through and came out the other side, the only remaining skipper alongside Bernard Stamm.

Kojiro was met on the docks by his team and media from Japan. Bernard Stamm, the Swiss skipper who won the first leg earlier this week, also greeted him, praising him for a great leg. The Japanese skipper celebrated with a selection of sushi and sashimi washed down with sake and beer. It is an impressive result for the only Open 60 in the race with a water ballast system instead of a canting keel. The canting keels allow for faster speeds but also make sailing and routing simpler and quicker.

Stamm commented: ‘He has really done a really clean race and managed to get through all the difficulties without stopping. He didn’t know the boat so well either as he had her quite late, but apparently he really knows how to make her come alive. He has done an amazing race and he is definitely a competitor to keep an eye on.’