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MAPFRE ready to tackle the first of the big offshore legs in the Volvo Ocean Race

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MAPFRE ready to tackle the first of the big offshore legs in the Volvo Ocean Race
MAPFRE ready to tackle the first of the big offshore legs in the Volvo Ocean Race

Under 24 hours remain to the start of Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race, and MAPFRE, the only Spanish boat on the fleet, is ready to face the 7000 miles from Lisbon to Cape Town. After a shorter than usual first leg from Alicante to the Portuguese capital, Xabi Fernández’s crew now stands to face this much longer leg, which for many marks the great start to the round-the-world race.
 
“Many of us see this second leg as the real start to the Volvo Ocean Race. Until now we have been racing in practice sprints, the prologue, and then the first leg, but now in Lisbon it’s a real start,” declared the Basque skipper.
 
The start gun is programmed for 15.00h Spanish time on Sunday, but before the fleet head to Cape Town, they will complete an upwind-downwind course in front of the Race Village, taking the boats under the emblematic 25 de Abril Bridge. Leaving the Tagus River in a good position will be key to initiating a leg where strategy is decisive.
 
From Lisbon to Cape Town: the first ocean leg of the Volvo Ocean Race
As a leg it won’t be easy, yet for many it is a favourite. The trade winds, the doldrums and crossing the equator; the 7000 mile distance will present the fleet with many fundamental strategic decisions, and MAPFRE are well aware that avoiding error will be crucial to reach South Africa with options of a good finish.
 
“In this edition, which is going to be so tight, we have to look after even the finest details at all times,” Xabi explained, “It is really important for us to leave Lisbon in a good position. We will first get into the strong northerly winds to take us to the Canary Islands, and then the trade winds to the equator. The first part of the race is vital for us to position ourselves to the west of the fleet, and as far south as possible, and then to be able to cross the doldrums, which are always tricky. From then on, it is like starting a whole new race.”
 
The leg presents a challenge for the crew and their navigator, with strategic decisions playing a truly essential role, as Joan Vila clarifies,
 
“This is the first real ocean leg, and it is a true marathon, as well as being interesting particularly from a strategic and navigational point of view. The fact that in this edition of the race, there is no compulsory gate at Fernando de Noronha in Brazil, gives us a great deal of freedom when choosing our route. The key to this leg will be how we get through the Doldrums, and in our day in day out,  it is what will finally make the difference.”
 
The importance of good preparation
With 7000 miles of racing ahead of them, MAPFRE are aware that it is not just the physical training of the team which is important in preparing for the leg. Having previously studied the meteorological information, material, spares and food to be taken on board for the team, are all factors that are carefully prepared before tackling one of the longest legs of the Volvo Ocean Race.
 
As the team skipper Xabi Fernández explains,
 
“Preparing for the leg involves many different factors, as well as the physical training and condition of the crew on board. We have to prepare the meteorology and strategy, and today the technological information received enables us to prepare for quite a large part of the leg in advance. For the first week, we can have a pretty well-defined strategy to undertake. But there are also other aspects to get ready, such as the spares and food stocks to be taken on board for the next 20 days of sailing. We have to calculate well, because we all like to be moderate but neither do we want to be missing anything.” 
 
For some of the crew this leg will also be the first time they have spent so long on board, which is in itself, a whole new challenge. 
As New Zealander Blair Tuke shared,
 
“We are ready to go now. It’s been a nice stopover here, and I’m feeling recharged and looking forward to what is the first long leg down to Cape Town. It’s one of the iconic legs of the race, and it’s going to be a chance to test how all the teams are doing - boat speed-wise, with a lot of technical and navigational stuff involved. This is a good one. 21 days is the longest by far that I have been at sea, and I’ve been trying to pick up as many tips as possible from the guys and gals on board. Im ready to go, and do my bit to make the boat go faster and get us there quicker. It’s exciting; this is the leg I have been really looking forward to, and here we are!”

MAPFRE CREW FOR LEG 2
Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Joan Vila (ESP)
Pablo Arrarte (ESP)
Rob Greenhalgh (GBR)
Antonio "Ñeti" Cuervas-Mons (ESP)
Blair Tuke (NZL)
Willy Altadill (ESP)
Támara Echegoyen (ESP)
Sophie Ciszek (USA/AUS)
Ugo Fonollá (ESP). *OBR= on board reporter