We've had a very busy week sailing with “Sanya” the Chinese team with Mike Sanderson as Skipper, who won the 2005 edition of the regatta, the first with these boats, the Volvo Open 70s. For this edition of the competition the organisers decided that no two Volvo Open 70s were allowed to train together up until a certain date to avoid the stronger teams having two boats and boosting their possibilities.
In sailing the only way of knowing if you're on the right track is to measure yourself up against other boats. It's quite simple: you get close to another boat and you see if you're faster or not. In other sports, such as Formula 1 or motorcycling you have a stopwatch telling you how fast you're going, but there here isn't one.
As I have mentioned before, Team Sanya is also the former “Telefónica Blue”. That's the boat that finished third in the 2008-2009 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, with Iker, Xabi, Jordi, Pepe, Pablo… all now on the new “Telefónica”. It was also the boat we used for training in Sanxenxo, Galicia for fifteen months and it's the boat I made my début on.
In these yacht on yacht training sessions both teams use radios to talk to one another, as all the noise and the size of the yachts mean that it's impossible to get close enough to hear each other. We get together for a meeting at the end of the day to discuss feedback and we also collect the data from the Navigator's computer so that we can analyse things like boat speed, angles, wind...etc later.
There's not long to go now until the start and with all the things we have to do we haven't really had time to think about that... You have to keep working hard to get everythin ready. Next week, in just eight days time we'll be racing the inshore race here at Alicante and then the following Saturday, just two weeks away now, we'll be on the starting line... We've been waiting so long for this moment that we almost can't believe that it's almost here...
IKER MARTÍNEZ, skipper
It wasn’t a race and we can’t take much from this in that respect. The only thing that we can say is that when the boats were together, they all sail very equally, which will make the race very difficult indeed. We weren’t able to race, and you can win or lose a race with a safety manoeuvre, as happened to “Groupama” with the man-overboard, where they lost an hour, but there were times we were sailing together.
The Inshore race we did here on Friday, all together, was very interesting. We trained up on manoeuvres, which is very hard with only ten people aboard. We were together there for a while up until the man overboard safety procedure. It went really well, first time.
In Palma de Mallorca we carried out the emergency procedure, which went very well because we had practiced it close-hauling at Sanxenxo without a hitch, but here we tried it downwind and we couldn’t do it, we broke the system. Now we’ve got to repair it, but we have learned that we can’t do it like that and it’s better to close-haul doing it; learning that lesson during the race would have been a problem.
As we passed Ibiza the forecasts were terrible, with no wind anywhere and as we saw the others ahead standing still we decided to go through the middle where there was a bit more pressure. It was luck more than anything. We got through well to come back on a close-haul with a fair bit of breeze.
I didn’t really realise what we were getting into before starting as we all thought that this was a race and that the safety procedures would obstruct that side of things, but we later realised the full benefit of being able to try these out like this, which is really important. You just have to see things from a different perspective.
DIEGO FRUCTUOSO, media crew member
There are lots of new 'toys' for me, as we've had all of the systems such as the cameras on the mast installed. I'm really pleased as I've seen great improvements since trying to upload videos all summer and it was really hard with just a normal internet connection. I still have to practice the handling of the on-board cameras, but overall I'm really happy with it all. Although I'm not part of the watch schedule I still rely on them to a certain extent, but what I do depends very much on what the rest of the guys do: if there's a watch change then I must make sure that they are well-fed, which is really important. Everyone understands my job and respects my role, but I think the key is that we all know each other really well and we help each other out.
XABI FERNÁNDEZ, trimmer.
During the first part of the regatta, the regatta triangle, and to a certain extent the simulation of what the real inshore race and start will be like, well that's where we were able to really sail well, up until past Tabarca. After that we were able to close-haul and sail all together. Although this is a regatta with no scoring no one is going to do badly just for the sake of it. We pushed the boat as hard as we could and I think we saw that we were doing well.
We then began the manoeuvres required by the organisers, as a test. Yesterday we did 'man-overboard' which all of the boats did fairly quickly, more or less where we thought the regatta called for it, but really we all carried them out quickly at the same time. After Palma, on the way back, we did the rudder procedure. At the finish we did the procedure with the sail.
I think that we were closer than we thought we'd be to be able to really test things out. You have to take this fairly lightly and not come to any conclusions because you never really know how the rest of this is going to go, but overall we did well. All of the crews are good and they know what they are doing, so although we got good feedback, we'll have to watch out.
We climbed up to Palma with breeze between 15 and 20 knots with sail changes that went well. As we left Palma we got a little bit of breeze from behind, but only for a short time and then it was just very little breeze from there.
We followed the watch schedule, but we did so many manoeuvres that we all had to be on deck, trying at the same time to follow the watches but all getting up when we had to.
This week we'll be focussed on the official measuring which is another regatta we must pass. Everything's as it should be and we carried out various pre-measurements with the class measurers. Now the boat will be taken out of the water and we will spend the week measuring, and doing other things and then we'll be sailing the week after that.
PEPE RIBES, boat captain.
It's been really interesting to be able to sail up close to the other boats. We have had to carry out lots of sail changes and tacks...". We close hauled to Palma followed by some breeze coming in from behind and then later on we went through two transitional zones. There were many shifts in position and we got the chance to see a few different sails used by the other teams. We pushed hard and there was a point during the regatta that we felt tired but we recovered when we sailed with only light winds. It's been very interesting and a great test for the start of the first leg in a month.
It's hard to say how we felt against the other boats as conditions were shifty and it's hard to draw conclusions, but we can say that we are all in the same situation.
It's been a good start, we were at home, so we know every corner of the course well.
We've been in Alicante for three weeks now and a lot has happened: we now have all of our rivals here with us, so every time we stroll past one of the other boats we cast a glance to see if we notice any differences. After being on our own for so long, we are glad to have some company!
Every team is trying to reveal as little as possible. For that reason, all of the team marquees are closed. If any one goes near them with a camera they are told that there no photos or filming are allowed. After all the time, effort and money it's certainly understandable. We also have the entrance to our marquee closed to the public and we hope that no one can see inside...
The set-up for this regatta is amazing: every team has a load of containers and a large team working with them. The village site is being put up at a rate of knots and I hope everyone likes it. It officially opens on the 14th, so I hope you'll all come!
Today we have HRH Princess Letizia of Spain visiting, who'll become "Telefónica"'s 'Godmother'. Hopefully she will bring us lots of luck!
After that we are going to take part in a training race or a 'qualifier' as the regatta organisers call it, which consists in sailing to Palma de Mallorca and back. It will be 350 miles in which we'll be able to test the "Telefónica" mettle against other boats. We are really looking forward to it as it will be our first test against all of the other boats!
However this regatta isn't about racing, as we are required by the race organisers to try out certain procedures such as the man-overboard and fitting the replacement rudder. I have to film these operations and then send them off to the Race Office.
We hope to also get some feedback from the boat in terms of performance, and I'm sure all off the teams will be trying things out, and keeping their secret weapons closely guarded, so there's no point in paying much attention to the results of this regatta...
Best regards to you all!
The last stop before the regatta begins: Alicante. Preparations are well underway at the Volvo Ocean Race base with the coastal race, that kicks off the scoring for the regatta just under a month away, so everything has to be ready. We hope that lots of people come along to cheer us on: GO TEAM TELEFÓNICA!
We are all in a bit of a muddle with our moves. As soon as we got here and we unpacked our cases from Galicia we had to get other ones ready for the set of containers going to Cape Town. As I've already explained on other occasions, we have double of everything. The first set of containers sets off now and goes to Cape Town - Sanya (China) - Itajaí (Brazil) - Lisbon (Portugal) and Galway (Ireland), whilst the other set of equipment goes to the rest of the stops. As well as our personal cases, there are a lot of other things to prepare that will travel with us to every stop: freeze dried food, medication, sail materials, rigging, electronic systems, tools and boat repair equipment. one often doesn't realise just how much effort goes into the logistics of a regatta like this.
Yesterday Team Sanya arrived, and the yacht is now tied up here at the pontoon by the bases. We were especially excited about her arrival as she is the former "Telefónica Blue" we raced in the previous edition of the regatta and which finished in third place. I don't know if you all know this already, but she was also the yacht we used for training in Galicia for a year and she's the yacht on which I made my debut in the world of offshore sailing. It may be decorated with other colours but we won't forget her. We also wish her lots of luck.
Media Crew Member
We are now near the Portuguese coast. We are advancing North upwind little by little.
The boat was christened inside yesterday, but instead of the typical Champagne or Rum, is was freeze-dried 'Cocido Madrileño', a traditional stew from Madrid, which Diego Fructuoso (our Media Crew Member) carefully splashed around after quite a fall... as he approached the hatch to throw the left-overs in the water, he slipped and fell into the boat with the pot of stew...
In a second there were chickpeas and chunks of chorizo and other ingredients from the freeze-dried stew everywhere – what a mess! Thank goodness Diego wasn't hurt and it didn't take us long to clean it all up.
So... Boat christened off the Portuguese coast.
We are really looking forward to reaching Sanxenxo. We are leaving Lanzarote and our big meals at Marina Rubicón behind, but we are heading towards cheese flan and Fidel's pie, where Dina and the girls almost sent us rolling off before we got the Barcelona World Race dates.
There's no doubt about it... Galicia is no place to start a diet!
On we go!
Hola a todos!
It has been more then 48 hours since we left Lanzarote and so far upwind sailing is what we have been doing... A good test for the boat and some head sail changing practice for us. We have been able to learn a bit more about “Telefónica”, since the condition has been changing everyday.
Life on board is very good and everyone had the chance to talk some memories from our very good time in Lanzarote! For me was the second time to be leaving the island after preparing for the Volvo Ocean Race, and again the same feeling: Great hospitality and life on shore and amazing conditions to be sailing and testing the Volvo Open 70! Again, a big thanks and hug for all the people from Marina Rubicón and all my friends from Lanzarote.
We are now on the latitude from Cabo Sao Vicente in Portugal, and everyone on board is really looking forward for our arrival in Sanxenxo, where we have been doing lots of sailing with our old “Telefónica Blue”!
¡Saludos a todos!
Two hours from rounding our last island La Palma. Then, hopefully, a comfortable 220nm reach to home. Had some interesting conditions rounding El Hierro island at the Western extreme of our course and some very fast speeds when South on Gran Canary.
Mood happy aboard.
It's going really well. It's the first time we have trained as if we were racing, instead of just testing. We are all in our positions and we're working watches as if we were in regatta.
The conditions are fantastic: 25 knots close hauling to put Alegranza (one of the small islands making up the Chinijo Archipelago to the North of Lanzarote) to starboard and we've been downwind all night with two gybes and lots of water on deck.
Fantastic! This is really beginning to take shape as a regatta, instead of merely training, which was a lot less interesting...
We are now on our way back home and in a few hours we'll reach Marina Rubicón and then we'll all be able to relax back at our homes.
When we leave the Canary Islands I think we'll take some fantastic memories with us of the months we have spent here preparing our boat for competition.
Lanzarote has treated us particularly well, although we've also done a lot of sailing close to the Fuerteventura coastline and towards the South of Gran Canaria, as well as seeing Tenerife's volcano, the Teide fairly close up a few times.
We've been near la Graciosa, Lobos and many other places that are spectacular to see from the sea, but coming back in to Marina Rubicón is always special, because it means we are home.
Just at the marina entrance there's a bar called 'Bar ONE' where we are given dinner and lunch when we are at the base. When we set off, or when we are coming back the bar also greets us with the ring of a bell, which makes us laugh.
During this week of sailing we have been able to test our sails, the boat itself, the on board systems and ourselves, all together on the boat that we'll be spending nine months on.
The aim of this training hasn't been anything revolutionary: we are not here to reinvent the wheel. We just want to be efficient, to make the most of the time we have, which is almost always hard to come by and very valuable. That's the 'trick', not to waste time and to hit the starting line fresh, ready to take on nine months of what's set to be gruelling competition, with rivals who are surely training just as thoroughly as we are and who also have lots of talent.
Greetings to you all, and see you soon.
Iker, from on board "Telefónica".
Hola a todos!
Another long day here on board “Telefónica”.
Today we have turned around and we are heading back to our base in Marina Rubicón, Lanzarote. We had four really good days for testing different sails and keep improving our boat. Everyone is very happy and enjoying the sailing.
Diego (Fructuoso) has been preparing some good food today, a kind of special Spanish beans with sausage!
We hope to be arriving sometime between Saturday night and Sunday early hours...
Un grande abrazo (big hug)!
Big learning day on Atlantic, only 19 sail changes today. Xabi said to "iron my blazer as you are going to need it".
One more day of sailing away, then we are on our way back to Lanzarote.
It's been a tough day in the Atlantic, 15-20 knot winds with sunshine. 20 sails changes to test out the boats performance. Xabi Fernández quoted "I think we won the race today."
All happy aboard with no problems.
100 days to go before of the next Volvo Ocean Race begins. When I started with the Spanish team, Team Telefónica, it felt like the start was years away; now it feels like the race start is just around the corner. Time passes quickly when you are in these campaigns, there is always so much to do and think about.
I sit here writing this in Lanzarote, a tremendous place to test our new, shiny, blue racing machine. Although only three months old, “Telefónica” has already been put through some testing conditions. The wind blows constantly here at this time of year, and by simply sailing 50 or 60 miles in one direction or the other, we can find just about any wind conditions we want. Add to that a warm sunny climate and the perfect set up for our base in Marina Rubicón, this is a sailor’s heaven!
Most of our major design decisions have already been made, so the majority of our time is now sail testing and getting to understand just how to get the best performance out of our boat.
We have a great sailing team, a fantastic shore crew and an amazing new boat. I have to admit I'm having fun!!!!!!!!!!!