Winds of between 20 and 24 knots in the mouth of the River Tagus, with peaks of 30 as the fleet entered the Atlantic for the start of Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE already lead the fleet as them make their descent to the Canary Islands.
An intense and busy start on the waters of Lisbon for the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. At 15:00h Spanish time, the fleet set off with northerly winds of between 20 and 24 knots, on the first real ocean leg of this edition of the round-the-world race from the Portuguese capital to Cape Town, South Africa. 7000 miles of uninterrupted sailing awaits, and MAPFRE has conscientiously prepared, maintaining their firm objective to fight for victory right up until the very end.
The boats left the dock to the applause of thousands of fans in the Race Village in Lisbon, including the well-known red flock of “Ñetifans”, family, and friends, offering their support and an affectionate farewell to Xabi Fernández’s crew, before the team set off on the second longest leg of the race.
Before heading south, the seven boats completed a windward-leeward course in the River Tagus, sailing under the 25 de Abril Bridge. Not the best start for MAPFRE, but the Spanish VO65 was not long in making up distances, to position themselves at the front of the pack for the first miles of sailing in the Atlantic.
The next few miles will be crucial, and predictions show that the fleet will be facing conditions of over 30 knots of wind, as they head down towards the Canary Islands.
An intense start to the leg
It will not be an easy start to the leg, but a clearly fast and intense beginning for the seven teams on the fleet. The meteorological conditions are already showing that the first few miles will be marked by strong winds, which could get tougher over the course of today, and peak at 35 knots tonight. The fleet were already sailing very fast along the Portuguese coast, and MAPFRE were heading the group.
The approach to the Canary Islands, the Doldrums and the entrance into the Southern Ocean are all key points in the leg. Xabi Fernández’s team are well aware that any options of victory depend on leading each of these different transition points, although with over 7000 miles of racing ahead of them, anything might happen.
IN THEIR WORDS….
Xabi Fernández, Skipper
We are always aware of other teams bringing reinforcements on board, for varying reasons, sometimes injury or circumstances, and we have seen in this leg well-known offshore sailors such as Chuny Bermúdez and Chris Nicholson, joining teams and bringing them added quality. We have always known that all the teams were going to be very competitive, and I think it gives extra added value to the racing, and also means that as much as we are able, we have to do everything even better still.
In this edition we have seen that the start is an important part of the race, because you have already begun to direct things a little. However, with 20 days of sailing ahead of us, we can’t get too obsessed by it, particularly with a night like tonight to experience, and the Doldrums to get through, the start will end up being a mere anecdote.
Ñeti Cuervas-Mons, bowman and boat captain
We are finally heading south. Up until now, we haven’t really had the feeling that we were in a round-the-world race. Now we are going to be several weeks at sea, and it will be the first real test for both the boats and for the crews. This is what we have been preparing for all this time, and we hope it is going to go well.
The first few days are going to be quite tough, with quite a lot of wind, and we will see which is the fastest boat. We will then go through the Canary Islands and Madeira, which is always quite tricky, and then onto the equator. It is going to be a very fast leg, and I think that in 20 or 21 days we will be in Cape Town. In 15 days’ time we should be at 40º South, in a flash!
The predictions for tonight are showing quite a lot of wind, which was the same for the Gibraltar Straits, but with bigger seas, so we already know which sail we will be using, and we will also see what the others are doing. It is all quite well planned, although we all know that from what might be planned to what actually happens, everything can change. The most important thing for us is not to break anything tonight, because it is going to be a tough one, so we will take things calmly.
Joan Vila, navigator
Tonight we are going to have quite a cold, northerly wind, and about 30 knots. We might have to gybe during the night, to stay with the maximum wind, which is like a small wind corridor running from the west on the Portuguese coast down to the Canaries, and then onto Madeira. The secret to the first part of the leg is to stay with as much wind as possible.
Tonight will quite probably be decisive for the first week, but the leg is a long one and there is a lot to get through: the Doldrums, the South Atlantic and a lot of opportunities for position changes at the front, but tonight will definitely define positions over the first few days.
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