He's 29 years old and he's been sailing for over 20. He's from Santander and he's off on his second circumnavigation of the globe soon. On Saturday the Volvo Ocean Race will set off from Alicante and at the bow of the Spanish entry “Telefónica”, we'll see “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons. With five days to go until the start and to the voyage towards the first stopover, South Africa, we have a chat with the Spaniard from Santander, the embodiment of strength and “positivity”.
How does a kid from Santander who began sailing at eight years old end up forming part of the select club of sailors who race the Volvo Ocean Race?
During my time on the Olympic qualifying team in the Tornado class I sparred with Fernando Echávarri who was the Skipper on “Telefónica Black” in the previous edition of this regatta. I also sailed on “Bribón” with Bouwe Bekking who was in charge of the sporting side of things on Spanish team in 2008, as well as Skipper on “Telefónica Blue”. I wanted to get in, I was given the chance and I tried my hardest to do well at it. After that I got hooked on offshore sailing and the chance came up to join this project with Iker, who has known my for a long time and with crew members such as Jordi Calafat and Pepe Ribes... and here I am!
This weekend saw the first scored race in the Volvo Ocean Race which was a race between marks with very little breeze and which we understand didn't go as hoped for the Spanish team... Has that affected team morale with just five days to go until the start?
The most important thing is to get out into the ocean, which is what these boats are built for. That's where we will have to show what we've been working on for the last two years and that is where the moment of truth lies.
In your opinion, what are Team Telefónica's strong points?
We are a very strong and tightly-knit crew and we complement each other well across all of the areas and we have spent a long time developing the boat so that it will go as fast as possible. To sum up: our crew and our boat are our strong points.
Double-Olympic medallist Iker Martínez is the team's Skipper. What qualities of his would you highlight?
I'd highlight the fact that Iker is a very experienced Skipper, both in offshore competition as well as dinghies in the Olympic classes... He is a person with great charisma and I think that he's the perfect Skipper to win a round the world regatta.
What's different about this Volvo Ocean Race and the 2008 edition for you?
The fact is that this is the second one for me. Now I have the experience I gained on board “Telefónica Black” and I think that will help me to do my job better. That's always an advantage when it comes to racing.
Ahead of you there are over 39,000 miles around the planet, divided into nine legs, stopping at countries such as South Africa, Abu Dhabi, China, New Zealand, Brazil, USA... which leg are you most looking forward to?
Rounding Cape Horn, without a doubt, which is the fifth leg, where we'll also be going to Auckland and Itajaí in Brazil.
Which do you think is the trickiest?
That leg too (the fifth), because conditions there will be pretty tough...
If we asked you to take a bet on the final Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 results, who would you go for?
I think that all of the five new boats have equal chances of winning. I wouldn't be as bold right now to say that Team Telefónica will win, but I do think that we have a good chance and we've trained for it. I'd put us in the top three with “Abu Dhabi” and the French entry “Groupama”.
What does offshore racing have that other sailing or other races don't?
This is sailing in its purest sense: day after day, 24 hours a day. Inshore races or racing for a day is fun and good to watch, but this is different... it's like lots of inshore races every three hours and for 20 consecutive days...
Due to the nature of this competition you are all a long way from home for long periods of time, not only during the regatta, but also when you are training. How do you deal with that?
It comes with the job, the job I chose and sailing around the world means you have to be away from home. It's a decision I took and I accept it, with the good and the bad, which is of course being far away from home and the ones you love. Of course, I never forget where I'm from nor my favourite place in the world: Santander and Cantabria in Spain, where I escape to whenever I get the chance so that I can be with my family and friends.
What was the worst ever moment for you on board a boat?
It was during the last Volvo Ocean Race when we had a pretty big problem with the boat in Taiwan and we realised that we weren't going to be able to do the long leg during that edition, which meant not rounding Cape Horn, which is the ultimate aim for any offshore sailor.
... and the best moment ever?
Reaching St. Petersburg in Russia and the end of the final leg in the previous race. I was in quite a state when we finished because I had problems with a wisdom tooth including a pretty bad infection that almost cost me taking part in the leg, although I managed it with difficulty. We finished first, winning the leg with the whole “Telefónica Black” crew and it was a very moving moment indeed.
If a kid at the Real Club Marítimo Santander (the city's yacht club) asked you how to get to competing in the Volvo Ocean Race, what would you tell him/her?
To sail as much as possible. Just the other day a friend saw my photo in the paper and sent me a message saying that he remembered all of the weekends where they'd all be going out partying and I'd be off sailing... I've been sailing all of my life, at a high level, at lower ones... but I have always loved sailing and I'd spend the whole day on a boat at the jump of a hat. That's been the foundation for me being able to do what I love, which is sailing.
And the final question, how would you describe yourself in three words?
Positive, hardworking and a good colleague...well that's four really...
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
“Wind” (Carroll Ballard, 1992)
The Stieg Larsson trilogy.
A cartoon character.
Your favourite dish.
T-bone steak from Tudanca.
I'm very positive...
..but I can get on people's nerves sometimes.
Maximum speed on board.
To win this Volvo Ocean Race.
On a pure upwind course heading to Sanya: that's how “Telefónica” is sailing, with a single objective in sight: Sanya (China), the end point of the third leg in this ...
Still in control of the fleet, “Telefónica” is holding onto the lead for yet another day and is now focussed on the move in closer to the Vietnam coast, where ...
“Telefónica” is sailing at a good pace in the South China Sea. The first boat to enter the open seas yesterday at 16:05 UTC and the crew headed up ...
The Malacca Strait is now history for “Telefónica”. At 16:05 UTC today (Monday January 30th) the crew headed up by Iker Martínez passed Horsburgh Light, the point where the ...
With under 50 miles to go for “Telefónica” and Iker Martínez to put the Malacca Strait behind them and the Spanish team maintains a firm grip on the lead of ...
After the 24 hour mark since yesterday at 12:10 UTC “Telefónica” moved into the lead in the fleet at the Malacca Strait, and the Spanish Volvo Ocean Race crew's performance ...
Iker Martínez and “Telefónica” have put the obligatory waypoint of Pulau We behind them. The boat is now navigating the difficult waters at the Strait of Malacca. “Telefónica” ...
Information as of 19:00 UTC
As predicted on board “Telefónica”, the northern option has finally paid off and after a climb up and up the rankings over the past few hours, ...
The past 24 hours of the Volvo Ocean Race have done nothing but confirm the validity of “Telefónica”'s decision to reinforce their northern option. Along with the other boats ...