From office to ocean: the story of Swiss skipper Oliver Heer, Vendée Globe 2024 candidate

Swiss sailor Oliver Heer is on track to participate in the gruelling Vendée Globe 2024, widely recognised as the world’s most challenging offshore, solo-sailing race.

Simon, 35, qualified in 2022 and will become the first Swiss German to compete in this legendary, non-stop, around-the-world race. He has had a unique journey into the world of IMOCA sailing. From a young age Simon was addicted to sailing and raced competitively across Europe. Age 16 he wanted to become a professional sailor, but his parents encouraged him to go to university. After completing his degree in International Business and Communications, Simon followed his father into the corporate world. The untimely death of his father at just 53-years-old, inspired Simon to change tack and pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a professional sailor.

Simon moved to the UK in 2014 to race professionally offshore, eventually leading him to the team of British sailor Alex Thomson and his IMOCA – HUGO BOSS. Working his way up from boat crew to boat captain, sailing over 50,000 miles and supporting two campaigns and a boat build, Simon gained considerable technical knowledge. He was chosen by Alex Thomson as his co-skipper for the 2021 Fastnet Race, and whilst sailing that race, Simon realised he wanted to pursue his own Vendée Globe campaign. Alex fully encouraged this, telling him to “quit his job and go for it!”. Just one month later, he did just that, and handed Alex his notice and Oliver Heer Ocean Racing was born.

Early in 2022, Simon purchased his own non-foiling IMOCA ‘Gitana 80’, which was previously owned and sailed by some of the best-known names in offshore racing including Jean Le Cam, Fabrice Amedeo and Romain Attanasio.

The Route Du Rhum, 2022, was his first solo transatlantic race and became his Vendée Globe qualifier. However, that race was not without drama. A port-starboard incident at the first mark forced Simon to return to shore for significant emergency repairs. The official review by the Jury found he was not at fault and granted him additional time which allowed him to finish the race. Simon demonstrated the resourcefulness, resilience and unwavering determination of a true Vendée Globe candidate as he faced and overcame these challenges.

After a successful 2023 Fastnet Race and Défi Azimut, he faced further challenges, suffering a rigging failure, which forced him to retire from the double handed Transat Jaques Vabre.

Simon knows the next few months will represent an intense period of preparation, training and racing for both the boat and himself in the lead up to the Vendée Globe to secure his spot on the start line.  The 10th edition of the Vendée Globe race, starting on the 10 November has 40 spots available. This will be the largest fleet in the race’s history to attempt this gruelling, solo, non-stop, circumnavigation. Simon is determined to be on the start-line!

“This is more than just a race for me, it’s a dream come true.” said Simon. “This is my first attempt at the Vendée Globe and the challenges I have already faced have strengthened my resolve to be on the start-line in November. I am extremely proud to be first Swiss-German sailor to qualify and I hope I can help to inspire a new generation of offshore sailors.”

Oliver Heer and his team have recently appointed DELMA watches as Official Timing Partner.

We are excited to welcome DELMA onboard as a partner,” said Simon. “Their dedication to performance and exploration resonates deeply with our team. As a fellow Swiss, we share a common heritage and a drive to excel, making this partnership a natural fit.”

Oliver Heer is currently seeking a title partner to support him on his journey for the rest of this Vendée Globe campaign and the 2025-2029 cycle.

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