At the Team Telefónica base at Marina Rubicón in Lanzarote, everyone is following the action at Weymouth (UK) closely. That's where Spaniards Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández are competing since last Saturday, where they have been racing on board a 49er yacht in the Weymouth & Portland International Regatta, a pre-Olympic event being held on a regatta course that will also be used for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Before the regatta even began, talk at the base was focussed on the pair, with the question “when do they start?” heard frequently. Now the regatta is underway the excitement has by no means abated: “How are they doing? Have they done a leg today? How far ahead are they from the rest?”... There are also various laptops connected to the regatta webpage and the Facebook page of the Movistar sportsmen and women (which includes Iker, Xabi and their 49er, and where the latest news on the Movistar sailors at Weymouth is updated).
2,000 miles and then straight to Weymouth
On Saturday 30th July at approximately 23:00 local time in Spain, “Telefónica” moored at the Marina Rubicón in Lanzarote along with the entire yacht crew, having completed the 2,000 miles required to qualify for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.
Just a day later, following a morning and part of the afternoon in meetings with the crew and the Team Telefónica technical crew, Iker and Xabi caught a plane from the Canary Islands in Spain to Weymouth, in the UK, to keep their promise to the Spanish sailing federation (RFEV) that they would help Spain fight for a place at the London 2012 Olympics.
They reached the UK six days before the regatta started in order to train with their rivals, to get to know the course and to get the boat race-ready, although seeing the pair out training on a 49er in Lanzarote was by no means something new.
Combining Volvo Open 70 and 49er
Whilst immersed in the preparation for the Volvo Ocean Race with “Telefónica”, Iker and Xabi have managed to combine their training with training on their Olympic boat of choice, which they have been sailing every day for many weeks, supervised by their trainer since 2006 Ramón Oliden, who went out to Lanzarote to prepare for the latest 49er event with the pair.
At 21.5 metres long, the Volvo Open 70 (also with 9 more crew on board) is somewhat larger than the five metre speedy 49er, with just two crew. Iker and Xabi have put many mornings and afternoons, as well as sometimes evenings, following a long day at the Telefónica base into their training. Some Sundays, usually the team's day off, Iker and Xabi have also been seen packing up at the Marina Rubicón sailing school, having spent the day out on their 49er.
It really is incredible to see them train. The speeds they can reach and their simultaneous movements with every manoeuvre, like a pair of dancers negotiating the most complex of tangos. All of this under the watchful eye of Ramón Oliden, who continually directs, films and watches every move on the 49er carefully.
First with two days to go
Last Saturday with a fleet made up of 24 boats, Iker and Xabi made their début in Weymouth. They started off very well indeed: on the podium's third step
Now with just two days to go until the end of the championships, they have raced a total of thirteen races and have taken eight podium spots, including three victories. These are results that have meant that Iker and Xabi haven't moved out of the podium spots and have even worn the yellow vests given to the leaders. They are the leaders right now with just two races more and the Medal Race to go.
Conditions at Weymouth, where almost 500 sailors are racing, have been strong winds during the entire week, of some 15-20 knots. The 49ers were also subject to a cancellation of racing yesterday due to excessive wind force, with forecasts of 30 knots in the late afternoon.
Despite the physical demands posed by this type of conditions, the strong winds were probably in Iker and Xabi's favour and the strong winds at Marina Rubicón were great training for the Olympic event.
All eyes on the last couple of days
The 49er that Iker and Xabi trained on in Lanzarote is being safely stored at the Team Telefónica base in Lanzarote. It is not the same boat that the pair are racing on in Weymouth, and so it is inevitable that when their team-mates walk past it they remember that the pair are giving everything they have in another boat, in another competition, with the same passion and commitment as their team prepare the new round the world challenge.
Perhaps it has been a good luck charm that has helped Iker and Xabi to now be in first place in the general rankings, against teams that sail exclusively in the 49er class. Perhaps it's the luck accompanying them from Marina Rubicón, Lanzarote, its wind and its people.
Above all it's them: be it a 49er, a Volvo Open 70 or an IMOCA Open 60... the good luck charms are the guys themselves.
Good luck guys!
This Thursday the 49er crews were on shore, subject to a postponement generated by excessive breeze in Weymouth, where 25 to 30 knots were blowing. At 17:45 GMT the 49er fleet is back onshore after two races and the day has finished for them. Iker and Xabi are the leaders of the 49er class, followed by Australians Nathan Outteridge and Ian Jensen. Two races are scheduled for tomorrow and the Medal Race will be held on Saturday.
For more info on Iker and Xabi at Weymouth check the Facebook Movistar sports page: www.facebook.com/equipomovistar
Provisional Rankings 49er after 13 races. Weymouth and Portland International Regatta. Thursday, 08/11/2011
1. IKER MARTÍNEZ/XABI FERNÁNDEZ (MOVISTAR), (14)+2+1+1+2+12+3+1+2+8+4+2+4=42
2. Nathan Outteridge/Ian Jensen (AUS), 1+1+(9)+5+7+1+2+7+4+1+5+1+8=43
3. Peter Burling/Blair Tuke (NZL), 11+(16)+3+3+1+3+9+5+3+3+2+4+1=48
… 24 entries in total
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