“But as you can imagine, we have a big list of things to sort out,” says Iker Martínez, scanning his new South African surroundings.
“So I might not have much spare time.”
It’s funny isn’t it. Over the last three and a bit weeks, that’s all his red Spanish boat has had – time.
Time stuck in the Doldrums, time stuck in the South Atlantic, time stuck in the Table Mountain wind shadow.
It was the first two which had an adverse domino effect on their performance this leg, but the latter which probably hurt the most.
Indeed, when his MAPFRE boat slowed and stumbled in the sluggish waters of that wind shadow this morning, he had to watch last placed Team SCA overtake – and finish ahead.
“This isn’t the start we wanted,” he admits. “In truth, we were feeling a bit rushed coming into this race. But now I have some time to sit down and to focus.”
With a talented crew of sailors on board, including two-time Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, finishing seventh out of seven must be extra hard to take for the Spaniards.
And it shows. “It’s tense here,” said Onboard Reporter Francisco Vignale, surrounded by stern faces as we live-linked up to the boat just off the coast of Cape Town. “Everyone’s pretty quiet.”
Frenchman Anthony Marchand, who has just completed his first ever Volvo leg, sums up the mood amongst the crew.
“Onboard? Well, it wasn’t festive,” he admits. “But we are grown ups, and we look at our mistakes to change them and do better in the next leg.”
“We also had a couple of problems with the boat, nothing major, but annoying issues. Our outrigger broke and it took us some time to fix it. Plus it left carbon fibre everywhere, which wasn’t ideal in the heat at the time.”
Let’s not forget that skipper Iker and his Olympic partner Xabi Fernández both won this leg – and the next two – on board Team Téléfonica last edition.
It just shows the impact that the odd slice of luck, piece of good fortune, or a decision here or there can have when you’re racing 24/7 with such fine margins for error.
You can even pinpoint the moment it all started to go a little bit wrong.
“I think it all goes back to the Cape Verde islands actually,” explains Anthony.
“We should have gone north. We were actually still close to Team Vestas Wind, and somehow they crossed the Doldrums well – I don’t know how they pulled that off.”
“Afterwards, we tried to stay outside the high-pressure, thinking we’d covered more miles but have more wind. Turned out the inside option was faster, so we sailed more, but not faster. That doesn’t pay.”
Leg 1 in Review
It was just one in a series of unfortunate decisions which left the Spanish lagging behind the front of the pack – after they had even led, at one point.
A bitter pill to swallow, yes – but that fact alone must give them encouragement.
“Yes, and it all starts again soon,” smiles Anthony. “We’ve got three days off before coming back to work on the boat. There’s a debrief tomorrow.”
His skipper will no doubt point towards the fact that, yes, he won this leg last edition, but actually, the boat which finished last, Groupama, went on to win the race.
In other words, they lost the battle, but they won the war.
“We are positive even if we don’t like this leg,” he says, confidently. “There’s a long way to go.”
About 32,252 nautical miles, to be precise.