Great sailing from the Spanish team, skippered by Basque sailor Xabi Fernández, who crossed the finish line in second place, 2 hours and 33 minutes behind the winners, after 6 days 4 hours 42 mins and 30 seconds of sailing from Alicante to Lisbon
At 18:42h today, the Spanish team competing in the round-the-world race, the VO65 MAPFRE, finished Leg One of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018. Skippered by Olympic champion Xabi Fernández, from the Basque country, and with Catalan navigator Joan Vila, considered one of the best navigators in the world, the crew of MAPFRE claimed second place in a hard-fought first leg. The team battled hard, and with the necessary consistency, to come back and above all, not let go of their second place.
Neck-and-neck first leg
As predicted, and similar to the last two editions of the race with arrivals in Lisbon (2011-12 y 2014-15), the last few miles of the course were painfully slow due to a drastic drop in wind conditions. As such, on reaching the Portuguese coast the leaders of the pack, were forced to watch how distances ahead of MAPFRE and the rest of the fleet dropped as they approached the finish line. However, the team had clocked up a decent few miles advantage in their favour, and nerves on board remained calm.
It was likewise a neck-and-neck arrival for MAPFRE in second place and Dongfeng in third. At just over half a mile to the finish line, and with a speed of four knots (7.3 km/h), the team were made to grit their teeth, whilst Charles Caudrelier’s crew advanced at double the speed. The two teams soon had their bowmen at the top of the mast searching for a sight of the slightest breeze.
MAPFRE remained calm, and with a sound Pablo Arrarte at the helm. After a frustratingly scarce three knots of wind speed, conditions finally picked up to five knots, and the team were able to cross the finish line at 18:42h Spanish time.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing, the American team skippered by Charlie Enright, claimed victory of the first leg, arriving at 16:08h Spanish time, (an hour less in Lisbon). The Chinese team, in third place, completed the podium, crossing the finish line 15 minutes after MAPFRE.
Xabi Fernández (ESP), Skipper
It was a complicated leg, as we were expecting. The Mediterranean was particularly tricky, and we then had several situations where we were forced to take a few risks. The result has been excellent for us, and satisfied our objective to finish up front.
We always say that the shortest legs are harder than the longer ones. This was a sprint lasting nearly seven days, where we saw a little bit of everything: light winds, heavy winds, manoeuvres…
There are very good sailors on all the boats, and with a lot of experience. We are all going to have good and bad legs, so it is important to make very few mistakes and to take it step by step. Vestas had a great leg; in Cabo de Gata they made the right decision, and we didn’t see them again. Congratulations to the winners! We are now ready to go for the next one.
Támara Echegoyen (ESP), trimmer
It was tougher than I expected because even though I knew it wasn’t going to be as long as the second leg, there were the Straits to contend with, and a lot of manoeuvres, so we hardly got any rest.
It has been a great experience, especially to know that I will be ready for everything that lies ahead. Now it’s time to enjoy our second place, which is a really good result for the team. We have been talking about being regular in our results, so this is good for us. I am now going to enjoy a bed, a shower, and the few day’s rest we have in Lisbon.
Pablo Arrarte (ESP), Watch captain
Leaving the Mediterranean was quite complicated. There were a few pretty tough moments, because there were areas of calm, and the prediction didn’t show that, but finally we managed to leave in third place, quite close to AkzoNobel.
We kept fighting mile by mile, our first goal was to catch AkzoNobel and for Dongfeng to be a little behind us, and we finally managed it. It was a tough leg, but we are very happy.
We still have the same spirit that we left Alicante with, and hope to keep it up.
Joan Vila (ESP), navigator
It was a short but intense leg. We were looking for the right options to get ahead, but also keeping an eye on those behind us. There were lots of areas without wind, and a few tough days, but finally it all worked out.
Conditions at the end were really light, and we knew that the chasing boats could be on top of us at any moment, but we had the advantage that with the narrowness of the river there wasn’t a lot of margin. It is a shame that we arrived in such light wind, but that is racing; it isn’t over until its over, as they say.
The team make everything really easy for me, and it is one of the great advantages of sailing with MAPFRE. I felt really good, and remembered how this was, so I’m now looking forward to a longer leg. It was a good apéritif and training opportunity for the next few longer legs.
PROVISIONAL RESULTS LEG 1
ALICANTE (SPAIN) – LISBON (PORTUGAL): 1650 miles
Day 7 – 19:10h Spanish time– 28th October 2017
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA, Charlie Enright).FINISHED. 6d 2h 8min 45s
- MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández). FINISHED. 6d 4h 42min y 30s
- Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier). FINISHED. 6d 4h xxxxxx
- team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont) 1.5 miles from finish
- Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt) 7.7 miles
- Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking) 32.3 miles
- Turn The Tide on Plastic (United Nations, Dee Caffari) 33.1 miles