With a week until the start of the first offshore leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Spanish boat has gained an extra dose of motivation at the Alicante in-port race, yet as MAPFRE’s bowman Ñeti Cuervas-Mons, embarking on his fourth round-the-world race reminds us, “We can’t get too confident, this race is extremely long, and the important sailing is offshore. The action will really start on the 22nd.”

The first in-port race of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018 was disputed today in Alicante, with victory claimed by the Spanish team. The windward-leeward race, held in front of the Postiguet and San Juan beaches, saw Xabi Fernández and the MAPFRE team winning with nearly two minutes’ advantage ahead of Chinese Dongfeng Race Team, and the American Vestas.

A bold move at the start, which paid off
One of the most spoken-about moments of the racing this afternoon was MAPFRE’s start, not the most common of sights, and yet a move which paid off perfectly.

The starting gun sounded at 14:00h with Cantabrian-born Pablo Arrarte at the helm, skipper Xabi Fernández, trimming, British sailor Rob Greenhalgh and New-Zealander Blair Tuke, as tacticians, and Catalan Joan Vila, navigating.

Whilst the rest of the fleet opted to sail left, MAPFRE decided to take the side of the Committee boat and cross behind the rest of the fleet.

The option was very clear for Joan and Rob, who wanted to go right on the first upwind leg, looking for more breeze. Our initial intention was to start with the others, but Pablo then saw a gap when Brunel tacked poorly, and couldn’t accelerate, so we went for the cross and gained a lot of space again. On the right it worked out really well,” explained Xabi Fernández. 

“On board we felt that the right was the favoured side, and so we ducked behind the others,” added Cantabrian-born Ñeti Cuervas-Mons, who at 35 years old, is about to take part in his fourth round-the-world race. “It worked out to be the favoured side. It was a risky choice, but we got it right. A clear decision from Patán on the helm, and Joan’s navigation.

At the front from start to finish
After ducking behind the fleet, Xabi Fernández’s extremely-well trimmed MAPFRE reached the first gate in just 10 minutes, and with an advantage of 24 seconds ahead of Scallyway, and 37 seconds in front of second-placed, Dongfeng.

At the second gate MAPFRE held onto their advantage, whilst Dutch team Brunel recovered a lot of ground, and rounded the gate with Vestas.

The second of the three laps saw MAPFRE maintaining a more conservative strategy, well driven by “Patán” (Pablo Arrarte), in the centre to mark both sides of the race course; controlling the fleet and their arrival at the gate.

MAPFRE held onto their lead for the three laps of the “round the cans”, with wind conditions between nine and thirteen knots, whilst for the rest of the fleet it was a juggle of position changes right up to the finish line.

The final podium positions were: MAPFRE, Dongfeng and Vestas.

The start of Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race is on 22nd October at 14:00 h.

THEY HAVE ALSO SAID… 

Xabi Fernández, Skipper
I think we all know that we have a strong team, but we realised from the very beginning that the combination of Pablo as our main driver, combined with Rob (who is a very strong tactician), and Blair and Joan, makes for a very good combination. Pablo is strong, and he doesn’t get scared in any situation, which is why he is at the helm.

Everything will begin in a week’s time, and it couldn’t get off to a better start for us. We are really happy with how the team has performed, with an impeccable start on port tack to the right side. We would like to thank all the public for their support, as we saw a lot of boats on the water here today. There is just one week to go until the real race begins.

Antonio “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons, bowman
We won on home ground, and I think it is really good news for the team, and for all the people who are here to support us in Alicante, and in Spain in general. I am really moved and quite emotional. We now have a week to enjoy the victory. 

We can see the results of the work that we put in over the winter in Sanxenxo, and it is good to see that our hard work has paid off. But we can’t get too confident, this race is extremely long, and the important sailing is offshore. The action will really start on the 22nd.

MAPFRE In-Port Race Alicante
1st — MAPFRE — 54:38 — 7 points
2nd — Dongfeng Race Team — 56:06 — 6 points
3rd — Vestas 11th Hour Racing — 56:54 — 5 points
4th — Team Brunel — 57:13 — 4 points
5th — Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallyway — 58:07 — 3 points
6th — Team AkzoNobel — 58:31 — 2 points
7th — Turn the Tide on Plastic — 59:39 — 1 point