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The Prologue Leg gets underway: MAPFRE en route to Alicante

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The Prologue Leg gets underway!  MAPFRE en route to Alicante
The Prologue Leg gets underway! MAPFRE en route to Alicante

Weather predictions proved to be correct, and the Prologue leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 began as expected: an absence of wind, and a postponed start under a raging sun.


The Race Management had announced late yesterday that the start line would be moved outside the River Tagus, to the river estuary,

“So the fleet can find wind earlier,” explained MAPFRE skipper, Xabi Fernández, early this morning.

Just before leaving, the team's navigator, Joan Vila, summarised how the Spanish team were expecting the meteorology for the Prologue Leg between Lisbon and the start port for the Volvo Ocean Race, in Alicante,

“For the time being, predictions are showing light winds on the Portuguese coast, where there are normally good northerly winds. It will then be upwind after passing the Gibraltar Strait, and also on the way up to Alicante. There might be quite a lot of wind in the Strait, and moderate wind in the Mediterranean.”

At around 13.00h local time, a few miles south of Bugio Island, located in the entrance to the Port of Lisbon, the seven VO65s began to line up for the start. Shortly after, faced with a complete lack of wind, the start was postponed.

The fleet then motored out to a new start area, where they began to group again under a North-Easterly wind of between 5 and 7 knots.

The Prologue Leg was finally underway at 1515 UTC. MAPFRE has been the first boat across the starting line with about 10-12 knots of boat speed. Wind is near 10 knots, but forecast to decrease slightly over the course of the afternoon and into the evening.

“It will be quite a long prologue, but it will enable us to try things out. The aim is to make sure that everything is all working ok, and to ensure we are ready for the first scoring leg,” declared the Barcelona-born navigator, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race 2001-02, before boarding MAPFRE.

Priorities and objectives
Pablo Arrarte, MAPFRE’s watch captain, will compete in his fourth round-the-world race. He was one of the first crew members to begin working in the team, and was in charge whilst Skipper Xabi Fernández was participating in the America’s Cup. Having trained since the beginning of the year, and without competition against the rest of the fleet since mid-August, his feelings of wanting to get going, are more than apparent.

“We have had a few weeks now without any racing activity. The prologue is a great opportunity as a warm-up because we then go straight into the coastal race and the first leg. We are really looking forward to it, and are all very motivated,” declared Arrarte.

As the Spanish sailor explained, their priority is, “to get activated; me personally, and the team in general.” He adds, “I think it will be good for us to get into regatta mode again, into the rhythm of the boat, the watches, and to check that everything on board and the sails are perfect, so we are 100% ready for start day.”

For Xabi, “We have to do a good job, but we also know that we have to be careful with the material. When the wind picks up we will have to change the larger jib to a smaller one. We have to look after the J1 as it is the racing jib.”

With her characteristic smile, the only Spanish woman on board a VO65, the Olympic Champion Támara Echegoyen, spoke to the press on the dock in Lisbon,

“Although it is non-scoring, I think it is a great opportunity for all the teams to know where we are at, and to have a good look at everything ahead of the race start, which is in no time at all.

Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Joan Vila (ESP)
Pablo Arrarte (ESP)
Rob Greenhalgh
Antonio "Ñeti" Cuervas-Mons (ESP)
Blair Tuke (NZL)
Willy Altadill (ESP)
Támara Echegoyen (ESP)
Sophie Ciszek (USA/AUS)
Jen Edney (USA). *OBR= On Board Reporter

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