Xabi Fernández: “The team is the best we have. We have arrived with the same team we left with in Alicante, and that has huge value. I am well aware that we have had a really good round-the-world race, and we should be happy, but having been so close to final victory, I have to admit that today is not our best day.

© Maria Muiña I MAPFRE

On Sunday 24th June the last leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 finished in Holland; almost 1000 miles of sailing between the ports of Gothenburg (Sweden) and the Hague (Holland); decisive in declaring the final winners of the round-the-world race. MAPFRE crossed the finish line in third place at 17:39:25 h 3 days 3 hours 39 minutes and 25 seconds, thus achieving second place in the competition overall.

Since the start of the race in Alicante on 22nd October, the fleet of VO65s (20 metres long) have sailed nearly 45,000 miles (over 83,000 kilometres) around the world. During the last nine months, MAPFRE has completed a total of 11 legs across five continents and visited 12 countries (Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden and Holland).

With their result, MAPFRE has achieved the best ever result for Spain in the competition to date. In 1981 Joaquín Coello’s Licor 43 was the first Spanish team to compete in the round-the-world race. Since then, over the last 37 years a total of 10 boats have represented Spain in the fight for the highly-esteemed trophy. Until today, Galicia Pescanova (in 1993), and Telefónica Blue (in 2009) were the two teams to have completed the race with the best result, in third place.

“The team is the best we have. We have finished with the same team we left with in Alicante and that has huge value,” said Xabi Fernández on finishing the race.

© Maria Muiña I MAPFRE.

Despite not claiming the final victory, MAPFRE were winners of three of the legs (second, third and eighth) and the team to have won the most number of legs in this edition, along with Brunel (seventh, ninth and tenth) and was the team to have been leading the fleet the longest.

The careful and conscientious preparation of the team in Sanxenxo, MAPFRE’s operational base, placed the Spanish team among the favourites to win the race from the start; a pressure that Xabi Fernández’s crew admirably integrated.

Leg one of the race from Alicante to Lisbon, began in October, and the team finished in second place. Two longer legs were to follow: Lisbon-Cape Town, their first leg victory, and Cape Town-Melbourne, the second consecutive win.

The so-called Queen leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Auckland to Itajaí (Brazil) rounding the legendary Cape Horn, was to prove one of the worst legs in the most recent history of the round-the-world race due to extremely harsh sea states and wind conditions, and for the tragic loss of John Fisher, crew member of Scallywag.

It was also the leg where the Spanish team suffered damage to the main sail track, a setback they attempted to remedy to their best ability, but subsequent damage to the main sail, left the team with no option but to suspend racing, 6 nautical miles from Cape Horn, to undertake repairs, and to enable them to continue. The incredible repair operation was a clear demonstration of the integrity and fighting spirit of the team, and in spite of such huge obstacles, the Spanish team were able to reach the finish line in Itajaí (Brazil) in fifth place.

The victory of Xabi Fernández’s crew in Leg 8 from Brazil to the United States, will also go down in offshore racing history; having overcome serious electrical problems on board the team refused to give up their fight; ingeniously making repairs to continue on towards their goal, and showed a miraculous come-back to sweep the final victory just metres from the finish line.

Across the Atlantic (Newport to Cardiff) the team finished in fifth place, and in the final legs of the race were second.

© Maria Muiña I MAPFRE

QUOTES

Xabi Fernández, Skipper
We knew that we were going to be racing for three days without sleep. The shorter the legs, the tougher they are. When you finally stop, and the adrenaline dips, you feel it. When we saw the last position report at 13:00h, and saw that Dongfeng were going to overtake us, our whole world caved in. First of all we went over with them (to the Danish coast), but there were a number of changes in the weather report and so we decided to change our strategy until this morning.

I have been trying to win this race for 12 years. The team is best we have. We have arrived with the same team we left with in Alicante, and that has huge value.

Támara Echegoyen, trimmer
We all knew that we had set out to win the race, and the team were prepared for it, but finally it is Dongfeng who have claimed the victory this time. They did a fabulous job, and so it is a well-deserved victory.

For me it is a victory to be able to say that I have participated and finished a Volvo Ocean Race, and to have been able to help the team, which is what I wanted. It is now time to rest and enjoy our achievements.

For me it has been a surprise. I knew my family would come, but to see Berta here on the dock as well is a huge support.

Joan Vila, navigator
When you are so close to achieving victory, second place just doesn’t feel the same. But I think we have to celebrate and know that we have had a great race.

To have got so far in the race with possibilities of winning, was greatly due to the fact that we are a really close team. We have stayed together since the start, without many changes, and have continued to learn as the race progressed. Although we were getting good results we continued trying to improve the boat, and I think that has been key; not just with the sailing team, but the whole shore crew, and all the other people making up MAPFRE.

Ñeti Cuervas-Mons, bowman
We were just metres from winning, and so for me personally I am not very happy. We sailed really well in this leg, and I think that the mistake was our decision whether to go inshore or outside, but we have proven that we are a fighting team, and are really proud of our whole crew, because they have done an amazing job.

We now have to let it all sink in. This is without a doubt the best result Spain has ever had in a round-the-world race, and we had a real chance to win right down to the last few miles. So it is understandable that we are sad.

Pablo Arrarte, watch captain
The team is without a doubt absolutely fantastic, the very best I have sailed with. We have done a really great job all together, fighting until the end. It has been an incredibly close round-the-world race, with huge battles. Just four miles to the start line we realised that Dongfeng had passed us. It wasn’t easy and we are all a little sad, but that’s life.

This has been the closest and most competitive Volvo Ocean Race ever, so to have finished in second position is really impressive. Today we are all feeling a little bitter-sweet because we know we could have won, and we had everything on our side to do so, but that’s just how it is.

RESULTS FOR SPAIN IN THE VOLVO OCEAN RACE
Nº / Edition / Boat / Final position

1 / Whitbread 1981-1982 / Licor 43 / 19º
2 / Whitbread 1985-1986 / Fortuna Lights / 6º
3 / Whitbread 1989-1990 / Fortuna Extra Lights / 7º
4 / Whitbread 1993-1994 / Galicia 93 Pescanova / 3º
5 / Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 / Movistar / 6º
6 / Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009 / Telefónica azul / 3º
7 / Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009 / Telefónica negro / 6º
8 / Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 / Telefónica / 4º
9 / Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015 / MAPFRE / 4º
10 / Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018 / MAPFRE / 2º

MAPFRE CREW
Xabi Fernández (ESP), skipper
Joan Vila (ESP), navigator
Rob Greenhalgh (GBR), watch captain
Pablo Arrarte (ESP), watch captain
Willy Altadill (ESP), trimmer/helmsman
Blair Tuke (NZL), trimmer/helmsman
Támara Echegoyen (ESP), trimmer
Antonio “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons (ESP), bowman
Sophie Ciszek (AUS/USA), bowman
*Ugo Fonollá(ESP), on board reporter

LEG 11 RESULTS
GOTHENBURG (SWEDEN) – THE HAGUE (HOLANDA)

1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier), FINALIZED a las 17:22:32
2. Team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont), FINALIZED a las 17:38:31 h
3. MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández), FINALIZED a las 17:39:25 h 
4. Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking), FINALIZED a las 17:45:52 h
5. Turn The Tide on Plastic (Naciones Unidas, Dee Caffari), FINALIZED a las 17:56:56 h
6. Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt), FINALIZED a las 18:01:32 h
7. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA/DEN, Charlie Enright), FINALIZED a las 18:05:36

OVERALL VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2017-18
1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier), 72 points
2. MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández), 70 points
3. Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking), 69 points
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont), 59 points
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA/DEN, Charlie Enright), 39 points
6. Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt), 32 points
7. Turn The Tide on Plastic (Naciones Unidas, Dee Caffari), 32 points