Συνέντευξη Xabi Fernández: I wouldn't change our boat with any other...

Μετά από πολλά χρόνια, νομίζω από το 1989-90 που Sir Peter Blake κέρδισε με το Steinlager 2, δεν έχει κερδίσει κάποιο σκάφος τρία σκέλη στη σειρά στο Volvo Ocean Race ή όπως ήταν γνωστός ο αγώνας πριν σαν Whitbread Round the World Race. 
Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain
(Photo Credit must read: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)
To Ισπανικό Telefonica τα κατάφερε φέτος και ποιος ξέρει που θα σταματήσει το σερί του... Ένα μεγάλο μέρος της επιτυχίας του οφείλεται στο δίδυμο των Iker Martínez και Xabi Fernández.
Ένα δίδυμο που είναι μαζί πάρα πολλά χρόνια και φαίνεται να έχει βρει τη φόρμουλα της επιτυχίας σε ό,τι και να κάνουν είτε είναι 49er, είτε είναι το Barcelona World Race ή το Volvo Ocean Race...
Μόλις μια μέρα μετά τον τερματισμό τους στη Sanya, μετά από 14 μέρες στη θάλασσα, οι δυο Ισπανοί ταξίδεψαν στην Μαδρίτη για να περάσουν μερικές μέρες διακοπών με τις οικογένειες τους στα Κανάρια Νησιά.
Είναι φίλοι από παιδιά, ο κυβερνήτης Martínez, 34, και ο τρίμερ Fernández, 35, έχουν αναπτύξει τέτοιο δεσμό που επικοινωνούν χωρίς να χρειάζεται να μιλήσουν, λέει το υπόλοιπο πλήρωμα του σκάφους.
Team Telefonica skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain at the helm
and trimmer Xabi Fernandez
(Credit: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race)
Είναι μια ειδική σχέση, είπε ο Martínez στο volvooceanrace.com.
Και αυτή η σχέση είναι που τους έκανε τόσο επιτυχημένους και τους έδωσε και φέτος τον τίτλο του ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year για το 2011.
Οπότε καθώς το σκάφος τους είναι σε φάση επισκευών στην Κίνα, βρήκαν μια ευκαιρία να περάσουν μερικές μέρες μακρυά από το VOR. Το σχέδιο είναι να αποτοξινωθούν λίγο από το VOR, να δουν τις οικογένειες τους και να κάνουν λίγη ιστιοπλοΐα... με το αγαπημένο τους σκάφος, το 49er... Αυτό πάντως σίγουρα ενισχύει τις φήμες που τους θέλουν να συμμετέχουν τον Αύγουστο στο Λονδίνο στους ΟΑ για να υπερασπιστούν το χρυσό και το αργυρό μετάλλιο τους στην κλάση...

Διαβάστε παρακάτω μια συνέντευξη του
Xabi Fernández, στο site της Ισπανικής ομάδας, για τον αγώνα και την απόδοση τους (στα Αγγλικά)...
Q. How does one deal with the stress on board during a leg as tricky as this one has been?
Trimmer Xabi Fernandez from Spain for Team Telefonica
Xabi: Well, we started this leg with very high hopes in terms of the boat, as we knew it would perform well in the kind of conditions that we thought we'd be getting and it looked like things were on our side.
Things went the other way very early on, and just four hours into racing we had a problem with the sail with the tack breaking off, which also caused the bobstay to break. There was one thing we were sure of and that was that without the boom we wouldn't have finished by now, or we'd be finishing.
Fixing the bobstay was a fairly complex repair and that's where the stress kicked in. We were approaching the Malacca Strait, which we knew would be a complicated passage, so there were nerves there already and the fear of getting stuck and everyone getting past and the race turning into a real struggle after that. The Malacca Strait was very stressful.
Just when we started to think that the final upwind stretch would be fairly straightforward, the wind started to rebel against the forecasts. Again we were caught between “Groupama” pushing hard and the worry of running into any trouble, from getting tangled up in a fishing net to gear failure. It really wasn't until the finishing line that we were able to relax.

Q: What was the crew's reaction to the breakage?
Xabi Fernandez onboard Team Telefonica
(Credit: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race)

Xabi: The first thing they did was to bring the sail down, as the Code Zero was flapping. It's a very big and heavy sail so flapping like that can cause some big problems. There wasn't too much breeze, but bringing it down when it's out of control can be very tough because obviously you can't furl it.
They got it down and we began sailing, just when as Ñeti was handling the furler he saw that the bobstay was broken.
At that moment our reaction was to sail with the jib, which was what we had to do, and to think of a plan B to carry out repairs. We knew how to pull out the pin and what we could put in it's place, but it's always tricky because you have to slow the boat right down.
There were a few different opinions around on how to carry out the repairs, whether to slow down a little or a lot and it was a pretty tough day. We were in touch with the shore crew who also sent us their opinion on how we should deal with the issue and in the end between all of us we decided to go ahead with it, and with hindsight it was obviously the right thing to do.

Q: What was the biggest challenge on this third leg of the regatta?
Xabi Fernandez steps off Team Telefonica,
(Photo Credit must read: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)
Xabi: I think that was it really. After starting off with a problem that big, the biggest challenge was to get the boom back into shape so that we could continue using all of the sails and not lose the race and to be able to reach the final upwind stretch close to the leaders.
Of course, the results were even better than that, because we got out of Malacca in the lead, but if not our aim had been to get out of there close to the leaders and in a position to catch up with them again.
There's a lot of talk about the difficulty of sailing in the waters along the Strait of Malacca. In the previous edition you chose to hug the coast, whilst in this edition you went straight down the middle. Are these differences due to the met interpretations or was more of a 'flip a coin' situation?

History's there to help you not to make the same mistake twice, but Capey, our navigator is of the opinion that whatever happened three or four years ago happened, but there's no reason for anything to be the same this time. The Malacca Strait is an area with very light airs and you can get a bit of everything there: storms, tornados at five miles...
What we did was to sail with the breeze we had, because that's all you can really do. You can't throw all of your tactics into something that happened in the past, because you don't know if it will necessarily happen again.
Often, both here and in Olympic sailing, when you don't know exactly what you should do sometimes you just have to live in the moment and at that moment there was some good breeze and a shift to gybe with, so that's what we did, whilst always keeping one eye on those behind us.

Q: The exit from Singapore was very complex and the approach to the Vietnam coast wasn't far behind, which was the most stressful?
The Spanish sailing heroes won gold in the 49er class at the 2004 Athens
Olympics and silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The duo will be competing in their third consecutive Volvo Ocean Race
finishing third with Telefonica Blue in the last edition of the race.
Xabi: Both really. When we were exiting Singapore there was more breeze than during the passage through the Malacca Strait, it was night-time and rather than just 'traffic', there were hundreds of cargo ships anchored and a lot of current and lots of rocks.
There was a lot of tension off the Vietnam coast. I don't know how many fishing boats we came across and they were all these wooden boats that don't show up on the radar, with no net markers, nor buoys or even lights...
We had to be so careful and on alert so as not to hit anything. As we were coming into Sanya we spent ten miles 40º off course because there was a complete mess of fishing nets and we couldn't see the end of them and we couldn't really judge them at that point in the race. Between that, “Groupama” and the breeze... Even getting across the finishing line was tough.

Q: If you hadn't had the bobstay incident or the Code Zero problem at the start of the race do you think that your tactical decisions would have been the same? Would the bid for the North have been as extreme or would you have stayed with the fleet?

Xabi: We wouldn't have gone with the fleet, that's for sure. I think that says a lot about the way we sail with Capey and Iker.
It's not that we want to go mad and get away for the sake of it, but the key is in staying together and then working on the finer details to add more and more gains to the bag.

Q: Following this mammoth effort, with so much manoeuvring and so many sail changes, what sort of state are Team Telefónica in?
Xabi Fernandez and Iker Martinez are named ISAF sailors of the year 2011.
(Credit: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race)

Xabi: I think we performed just as many tacks or perhaps even more than the rest, without flagging. The final five days were particularly tough, with loads of manoeuvres and we know what manoeuvring a boat like this is like.
In the end we took every shift, and that's what we've been doing since we left Singapore and it gave us a bit of a margin. We were also a bit afraid of what might happen on the final reach of the leg, because if “Groupama” had been nearby they could have taken it.
I think that we didn't flag physically, which is really important and that's why we were able to perform so many manoeuvres.

Q: Why do you think that you are the current Volvo Ocean Race leaders?

Xabi Fernandez from Spain and Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad.
(Photo Credit must read: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

Xabi: I think that things are going well for us and the key lies in the preparation we've done. We've said a thousand times before that a Volvo can be lost right from day one, but it can't be won there.
You can lose this race even before the start. We have a highly-trained crew who know the boat very well, as well as an excellent navigator who is inspired and alongside Iker they make up a duo who know how to make the right decisions, as well as making good value judgements of the risks involved. We haven't made any big mistakes so far, and that's what has put us up at the top.
Will we make them further ahead? I'm sure we will. Could things get tricky for us? I'm sure they can too. I do hope that the points gap that we've been building up will help us out in the future.

Q: With 16,000 miles under your belts, racing against the rest of the boats, if you could rewind two years and change anything about the preparation process, would you?

Xabi: Well, it's quite clear that we'd have still gone for the same boat... what else can I say now! We'd have chosen the same design, designer and we'd have done exactly the same job.
In terms of our training it's difficult to improve on what we did in Lanzarote and Sanxenxo. Of course we've been learning from the others as we've been racing and maybe there are certain finer details on the boat that we might have tweaked, but I couldn't say exactly what really... and if I'm sure of one thing, it's that I wouldn't change our boat with any other and I thi
nk that we have the best boat all-round.