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Iker and Xabi, the complete circumnavigators, take second
When Iker Martinez
and Xabi Fernadez crossed the finish line of the
Barcelona World Race at 0917hrs (UTC) today the
Spanish Olympic champions of 2004 took second place, having
completed the 25,200 miles course in an elapsed time of 94 days, 21
hours, 17 minutes and 35 seconds.
Their average pace on
MAPFRE was 11.07 knots for the theoretical course
distance, and over the 28,759 miles they actually covered they made
an average of 12.63 knots. They finished 22 hours, 56 minutes and 59
seconds behind winners Virbac-Paprec 3 to
a tremendous reception in a sun-drenched Barcelona.
“This is an ideal situation for us. Until
14 months ago we had never sailed an IMOCA 60 and so we could not
aspire to very much. But the race was very good, much better than we
expected. We've made a huge step. Tomorrow the project is finished
but if in the future we want to do it again we can hope to aspire to
"We learned a lot, every day. Each day has
been a learning process. Especially all the way through the South
Atlantic and Indian Oceans. We were sailing well and we could fight
with those at the front. We believe that we can go one step
further,”said Iker Martinez, shortly after he
and Xabi had made an emotional reunion with their young families on
the deck of MAPFRE.
His co-skipper Xabi Fernandez
added “These past 94 days have been never-ending. If you told me
it was 105 days, I would believe you. But it has been a great
Back in 2007, when the inaugural
Barcelona World Race answered the start gun off the Catalan
capital, two of sailing’s most likable and down to earth Olympic
gold medallists were merely interested spectators. With a first
experience of the crewed 2005-6 round the world Volvo Ocean Race on
Movistar behind them, Iker
Martinez and Xabi Fernandez were in the
throes of intense preparation for their second Olympics and on an
enjoyable day trip to see the new non-stop race set off, but the
seeds of an idea were sown.
Their second Olympic medal, from a demolition
derby medal race in Qingdao, China, was not of the colour they had
set out for, and so the duo gave everything to ensure they won their
third 49er World Championships in the Bahamas in January last year.
Only with their third title bagged, did the duo let their idea of
another offshore adventure grow.
Both were total IMOCA Open 60 novices when
they set foot on one for the first time in late February last year.
“We wanted to know if it was something we could do together, and
now we have our answer,” said Xabi Fernandez,
a few days ago on live Visio-Conference.
Today the Basque duo, who have sailed together
in the 49er since 1999, not only confirmed to themselves that the
Barcelona World Race is a challenge they can
complete, but by winning second place, the IMOCA Open 60 ‘rookies’
have underlined what an outstanding sailing talent they are.
Finishing in second place, just under 23 hours
behind the race winners Virbac-Paprec 3,
the Spanish pair are the first team to complete the entire
“We would rather be fifth and complete the
circumnavigation without stopping, than finish second and stop. This
is our opportunity to go round non-stop together and that is what we
have always wanted to do,”said Xabi on the approach to
Wellington, re-affirming that fundamental goal a few days
‘Leave nothing on the race course’ is the
universal maxim of coaches. Arriving today with all gauges down to
‘reserve’ – no food left and no fuel, unable to run their engine any
more, it is unlikely that any team has pushed harder for longer. A
batch of spoiled freeze dried meant the duo have been on reduced
rations for at least three weeks, having first mentioned back in the
Doldrums that they were low on nutrition.
For the duration of their 25,200-mile, three
month-long course they have vividly and coherently transmitted their
simple love for sailing, the relentless drive and stamina which has
been at the foundation of some of the race’s most consistent high
speeds, and opened up their incredible adventure to an enchanted
Their ability to regain ground with long days
of fast-paced, high mileage sailing had race winners
Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron consider
them several times as “serious customers, who sail the boat
sailed constantly in second place for 18,900 miles since the 26th
January when they took up the baton from mentor Michel
Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart (FRA) after
they lost the top of Foncia’s mast.
A deficit to Virbac-Paprec 3
at the Cape of Good Hope of 730 miles on January
29th had grown five days later to 780 miles. But, after
Virbac-Paprec 3 stopped in Wellington
to repair their mast-track and batten cars, by the mid-Pacific the
Spanish duo had got tantalisingly close, to within 8.3 miles of the
leaders by February 25th.
Their baptism of fire into the rarefied world
of deep ocean IMOCA Open 60 racing has been completed, where
self-reliance in every area – mechanical, electrics and electronics,
sailmaking and boatbuilding – is as much part of the complete
circumnavigation as trimming sails, managing sleep and nutrition.
The Spanish pair rose admirably to the
multiple challenges. Belying their Olympic one design and Volvo
Ocean Race backgrounds, where a top specialist is, at worst, a phone
call away 24/7, at best at your elbow in a second, on 11th February
in the Indian Ocean they finally revealed that they
had spent 48 hours completing a workmanlike, ingenious composite
repair to their port daggerboard, five days after they lost 1.5
metres off the tip when they hit an object.
They had not mentioned the impact when it
occurred five days previously, and ran silently while they
cannibalised foam from the helm’s seat to make the repair. After
trying to repair it on deck they next had to manhandle the 100
kilos, 4 metre-long blade into the cabin of their IMOCA Open 60
where they set up a tented workshop to finish the repair. Their
success it fixing it ensured that they did not have to make any
technical stops and were able to complete one of their main goals.
After Cape Horn they had to
make a short halt, mooring briefly in the remote Isla Nueva
at the entrance to the Beagle Channel. There, in
the fading darkness, Martinez scaled the mast to sort out their
jammed foresail halyards. Their detour and brief pause cost them 80
miles to leader Virbac-Paprec 3.
They served notice of their capacity for speed
in the turbo charged racing of the north-easterly trades where they
set an electric pace, sailing lower but faster than their
opposition. They admitted pre-start to being less confident of their
weather strategy experience, having never previously had to take
sole responsibility for routing, but as the race progressed so their
skill and confidence developed, and Martinez confirmed it was a
component of the race they were enjoying.
On the descent of the Atlantic
in the approach to the key Saint Helena anticyclone
they were first to use ‘ghost mode’ as they sought to cover a move
to the west and south, but when the weather files seemed suddenly to
turn against them, they had to bail out back to the east, furiously
beating back upwind to try and close the gap back to then leader
And on the return up the Atlantic, the
dominant South Atlantic anticyclone again was a
thorny dilemma. Dick and Peyron escaped to the east, avoiding the
worst of the lightest breezes and reeled out more nearly 400 miles
of additional lead in three days as the Spanish duo struggled to
Through their many highs, and few lows, the
duo have visibly enjoyed sharing each mile and hour of the course
with their audience. They have thrived on sharing special moments,
patiently taking minutes from the relentless race to speak with just
some of the many hundreds of youngsters who have followed the race
on the Visio-Conferences. Without doubt they are now the complete
feeling great because everyone we want to have here is here, all the
family, all the friends, everybody's here. So we're feeling very
happy and a little bit more relaxed, now it's time to have a rest
and enjoy it a little bit!”
Did you expect to finish second? "Not at
all, no no. We know about racing, so we knew anything could happen,
but we knew already that it would be very difficult to be on the
podium or in the top five, so our goal here was to finish the race
non-stop, that was in our minds since the beginning of the project,
since we started training. So after that, racing is racing, things
can happen and they were happening for us. I think we were pretty
lucky on how things were going within the race, and then we were
learning pretty fast. We suddenly saw in the Indian Ocean that we
were sailing pretty close to the leaders, and we were really sailing
well and feeling good - at the beginning we weren't feeling so good
as we didn't know how to sail the boat, but then at that moment we
decided, ok, now is the moment to push!
"We have a lot of good memories, many
different things. It's not just a race, it's an adventure so you
have many feelings. Probably the best one is to be able to do a race
like this with Xabi, both of us together, that's probably the best
bit. And then a lot of little moments, problems or things we
enjoyed. Whenever we're sailing together, not in the 49er but like
this, we're always trying to solve problems - 'do you know how do to
this, or this?' that was happening every day."
• February 2010After doing a
deal on his highly optimised, well proven Vendée Globe winning
Farr-designed Foncia last year the duo
first went to IMOCA Open 60 ‘school’ learning from double Vendée
Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux and his technical
team in Port La Foret in Brittany. After six weeks of work around
the boat, learning with their shore team the keel, rig, mechanical
and electricals, they went out, with ‘Le Professor’, and won their
first IMOCA race, the Grand Prix Douarnenez.
• April-June 2010At the
beginning of April Martinez and Fernandez sailed with their team
back to their base in Sanxenxo, Northern Spain and
in May sailed on to Port La Foret, before
contesting the round Spain, Vuelta España a Vela in June, where they
• December 31st2010
MAPFRE started their first round the world race up
with the main group, but stuck close to the northern, Spanish side
of the Gibraltar Straits, dropping to ninth by January 3rd.
• January 10th Back up to
fifth place, MAPFRE earn their reputation
as ‘speed kings’ consistently scoring 20-plus knot speeds south of
the Cape Verde islands.
• January 15th With
Foncia and Virbac-Paprec 3
stopping in Recife, MAPFRE
move up to second, and become the first to employ ‘stealth’ mode as
the French pair rejoin the race, emerging 183 miles behind new race
leaders Estrella Damm. However, their
middle route between the westerly leaders and easterly main group
sees them lose out, briefly dropping to ninth before working hard to
overtake the peleton to the east and climb to third.
• January 26th Move into
second place after Foncia break their
mast, 543 miles behind Virbac-Paprec 3.
Rounded Cape of Good Hope three days later more
than 730 miles behind the leaders.
• February 4thHave reduced
the deficit to just 412 miles.
• February 11thReveal that
they have had to make major repairs to their port daggerboard.
• February 16th
Virbac-Paprec 3 make a 48-hour pitstop in
Wellington, New Zealand. MAPFRE
enter the Cook Strait just as the French leaders
• February 25thHaving tailed
Virbac-Paprec 3 across two Pacific ice
gates, MAPFRE are within 8.3 miles of the
leaders. Their pace in this stage of the race earns them the
Pacific Trophy for the fastest course from the Cook
Strait to Cape Horn.
• March 3rdRound Cape
Horn, then stop straight afterwards to make unassisted
repairs to their halyards. Rejoin racing 220 miles behind the
• March 11thVirbac-Paprec 3
emerge from the St Helena High pressure system 544 miles ahead of
second-placed MAPFRE, with the Spaniards
having been becalmed on a more westerly course.
• March 19thHaving given
chase once again back up the Atlantic, MAPFRE
close to within 111 miles of Virbac-Paprec 3
across the Doldrums, but can gain no more.
• March 25thBoth the leading
boats deploy ‘ghost mode’ as they contend with the Azores high
pressure system, but Virbac-Paprec 3
emerge 240 miles ahead.
• April 4th MAPFREpass
Gibraltar, Virbac-Paprec 3
win the Barcelona World Race.
• April 5thMAPFRE
arrive in Barcelona in second place, after of 94
days, 21 hours, 17 minutes and 35 seconds of racing.
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