Spanish skippers Javier 'Bubi' Sansó and Pachi Rivero jubilantly crossed the finish line early this morning, 19th February, in Barcelona onboard Mutua Madrileña at 00:18:40 GMT making them the fourth boat to race home in the Barcelona World Race.
Mutua Madrileña leaving Wellington after pit-stop ©Chris Cameron / DPPI / Barcelona World Race
A fabulous welcome for the national team as they sailed into the Olympic port on home waters surrounded by spectator fleet, supporters, friends and family after an epic 99 days 12 hours 18 minutes and 40 seconds trip around the world.
'We feel we have accomplished our mission,' said Bubi, 'competition-wise I think we have done a very good job and we are proud of what we have achieved. It would have been excellent to get a 3rd; and we were so close - but Dominique and Michele did a great job! Next time first place!'
Incredibly charismatic and extremely popular both Bubi and Pachi, close friends and sailing colleagues for years, were clearly overwhelmed by their reception in Barcelona; the first lap of the world for both Spaniards, and 'a dream come true, the best thing I have ever done,' as described by Rivero.
'I will miss the boat,' admitted Pachi, 'I personally wanted to get back to shore and see my family and friends, and each race has to come to an end. But I feel a little sad, looking around at the boat and having to leave it all.'
The 2003 Owen-Clarke Design Mutua Madrileña was built in New Zealand and has a vast track record; winner of the 2004 Transat and 3rd in the Vendée Globe 2005 as Mike Golding's Ecover 2, the Spanish team were confident but realistic to their level of competitiveness against the newer generation boats on the fleet.
However Mutua Madrileña started to grow and gain confidence as the days passed. A slow start in the Mediterranean for the fleet; 6th at Gibraltar after sneaking past Delta Dore and Hugo Boss with some clever tactics from the Spaniards, Bubi and Pachi dropped to 8th at Canaries with a combination of light weather and tactical error. Yet as the fleet headed south Mutua Madrileña began to climb their way up in the rankings and the first hint of their true competitive edge began to become apparent.
By the time the Barcelona World Race boats had reached the Cape of Good Hope, the Spanish team were up to 5th and once in the Indian Ocean the solidity and speed of Mutua Madrileña, and the determination and drive of its two skippers began to shine through,
Javier 'Bubi' Sansó at the helm of Mutua Madrileña ©Mutua Madrileña - Barcelona World Race
'For 99 days our goal at absolutely every moment was to keep the boat fast,' explained Bubi just hours from arrival, 'we never stopped trimming or changing sails until we had the exact perfect combination at all times, and I think we have shown that with our speed.'
The chase begins
As disaster struck four of the boats in the first southern Ocean stretch, a magical race within a race appeared - the chase for a podium position with Swiss-French team Temenos II, a race which was to start in the Indian Ocean and continue right up to the finish line in Barcelona.
'We were obsessed with overtaking them - it has been our main objective and we pushed to the limit, trying to make them feel nervous, and force them into making a wrong move,' admitted Sanso, 'Half our trip around the world was focussed on passing Temenos II! But we have a clear conscience as we never let the pressure off, ever! The competition has been fantastic!'
A tactical pit stop
The announcement of Temenos II pit stop for keel problems was a gleam of hope for the 4th placed Spanish team in pursuit. Yet on 2nd January Mutua Madrileña announced they too would be pulling into Wellington to check the boat over thoroughly, repair a number of issues and restore confidence in performance before tackling the remaining 12,000 miles of the race and the infamous Cape Horn.
A slow start out of New Zealand for both teams, but within 48 hours Mutua Madrileña was just 100 miles behind. The match race that ensued provided some of the most breath-taking, exciting and memorable moments of the race; a full-bloodied persecution in the Pacific showing thoroughbred speeds from the Spaniards- the fastest boat to Gate 6 between the Cook Strait and Cape Horn.
Match racing around the horn
Double celebrations as Bubi and Pachi rounded the Horn (sporting the token earring) and returned to the Atlantic, never once releasing the pressure- at one point coming to within 35 miles of Temenos II.
Pachi onboard Mutua Madrileña rounding Cape Horn for the first time!©Mutua Madrileña - Barcelona World Race
'We are very satisfied with our race and the way we have sailed but do feel a little bit frustrated not to have caught Temenos II,' admitted Pachi, 'But it is a first time, we would both like to race again, be 100% competitive and try to win it. In a newer boat and a little faster we could have been up with the leaders!'
So the persecution continued up to the Canary Islands when the Spanish team opted for a risky break; one that didn't pay off - Bubi and Pachi saw the distance increase from 90 to 300 miles as Temenos II rapidly approached the Straits and the Mediterranean.
A rough passage through Gibraltar and into the Alboran Sea, Mutua Madrileña continued to gain on the Swiss-french boat ahead of them but had to battle the elements with Force 6 and 7 conditions up to 24 hours of the finish.
'Of course it is a little bit sad to leave but this is a bubble and you have to get out,' were Skipper Bubi's words just prior to arrival, 'We are tired now - in these conditions you cant stretch any longer than we have done - the stress we have gone through physically, technically and mentally is the maximum you can cope with at this level of competition for three months.'
'For me the boat is more than a piece of carbon, we have taken so much care of it; our home, transport and competition for so long. The boat came first always, and Mutua Madrileña will be in our thoughts for the rest of our lives.