Conrad Colman co-skipper of the Spirit of Hungary Imoca 60′
Ocean Masters portrait by the OSM website: Posted on December 17, 2014
At just 31 years of age, Conrad Colman is about to tackle his second double-handed round the world race after his victory in the Global Ocean Race in 2012 aboard a Class40’. This time though, he’ll be competing on an IMOCA60 in the non-stop Barcelona World Race, aboard Spirit of Hungary, alongside Hungarian sailing legend Nandor Fa.
Conrad was born in New Zealand. He grew up in a family of sailing enthusiasts. “My grandfather built his boat in his garden and my dad crossed the Pacific before meeting my mum.
I did my first cruise when I was still just a newborn child. We set off from Bali and sailed as a family for the first year of my life.”
After fairly classic schooling, he got his degree in Political Science and Economics in the United States. However, shortly after that, he decided to settle in Europe with one objective in mind: to become a professional sailor and take the start of the Vendée Globe. “After university, I opted to hang a right! If you want to explore the world, you can’t allow yourself to sit around. I don’t have a plan B. I’m a sailor because it’s the only activity in the world, which groups together all the elements I need in my daily life: sport, adventure and project management. I’ve set a course for the Vendée Globe, there’s no other option.”
He spent two years working in England before heading over to France and the Mini 6.50 circuit. “Like a lot of sailors before me, I began with the Mini 6.50 Class. I did my first solo transatlantic on a Mini in 2009 before moving up into the Class40 the following year to compete in the Route du Rhum.”
From there he linked onto the Global Ocean Race, a double-handed round the world race with stopovers. He won four of the five legs of the race, each time with a different co-skipper, and secured outright victory.
It was during this journey that he experienced the worst and best moment of his young career as a sailor: “My best and worst memory are intimately linked. On approaching New Zealand, on the second leg of the Global Ocean Race, my co-skipper, Sam Goodchild, fell overboard. After 35 minutes of anguish, carrying out a search in a swell, with 35 knots of breeze, fog and virtually zero visibility, I managed to locate him. It was a hellish 35 minutes, thinking of the possibility that I could lose him and that I had his life in my hands. There are no words that can describe that. Even though recovering him was indescribably joyous, I never ever want to go through that again, I never want to feel what it’s like to know someone is in danger again.”
Conrad is a fan of sport and adventure first and foremost. He practices top-level mountain biking and is training for triathlons. “I’m someone who is very headstrong; I really like it when the going gets tough, when I manage to overcome a problem I’m confronted with. Even though my end goal is to set sail singlehanded, I’m pretty sociable. I love trading experiences and spending time with my friends. However, I’m totally fulfilled when I’m alone, confronted with the most extreme situations. Sailing is the best way I’ve found to push back the limits and tackle the toughest possible conditions.”
The Barcelona World Race will be his first major race in the IMOCA60 and another step closer to his objective, the Vendée Globe. “What I love in IMOCA is the real adventure, the chance to circumnavigate the globe without touching land. It’s sport at the very top-level and pure adventure too. You cannot control Mother Nature. Having the opportunity to confront the purity of the elements and the ocean in all its states is unique.”
Level-headed and thoughtful, the young sailor isn’t pulling any punches: “I want to take the start of the Vendée Globe with a fine project, a happy sponsor and the support of the general public. The aim is to sail a fine race, because all the elements are in place. Whether or not the results are there at the end is not what it’s about. The most important thing for me is to do things right and have that opportunity.”
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