Volvo Ocean Race crews to battle in Round Britain test

Spanish Volvo Ocean Race team
Maria Muina
Iker Martinez’s Spanish team will put to the test potential new crew members as they make their way to the UK for the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race this week.

The event, which starts on August 9 and is preceded by Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, will see five of the new, one-design Volvo Ocean 65 boats navigate Britain’s 1,800 miles of notoriously tricky coastline.

Four other teams - Team SCA, Team Alvimedica, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng Race Team - will join Martinez’s crew at the start line of what is the final competitive test before the beginning of the Volvo Ocean Race in October.

And the Spaniard has drafted in Guillermo ‘Willy’ Altadill and Carlos Hernández to join his team for the practice race – as the pair attempts to secure a permanent place on board.

The Spanish team are currently some way behind their rivals in terms of preparation, and the skipper is relishing the opportunity to blood some new talent.

'We’d like to try 10 more guys but we just don’t have the time - that’s the problem with such a tight schedule,' he said.

At 21 and 27 respectively, the pair would both fill Under 30’s spots on board – but despite their relative youth, Martínez believes that they could prove to be valuable additions to his crew.

'They are good sailors, and have a lot of experience with large boats,' he said. 'We have sailed together over the last few days, and both of them have performed very well. They are young, fit and possess a lot of technical ability.'

Meanwhile, Dongfeng Race Team have packed up their Lorient training base and are currently en route to the UK.

The trip is a particularly exciting one for their Chinese sailors, who have never visited the islands before.

'Multiple Chinese crew will take part in the race, which is a major step forward for China in terms of offshore sailing,' said Team Director, Bruno Dubois.

'There is still a lot to do but if we look at the big picture and our long-term goal, this is a first success,' he added.

'I am proud that in just six months, we’ve managed to reach this point.'

January, 2015. Leg 3 onboard Team SCA. Sunrise shadows. Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15
Corinna Halloran / Team SCA

This week’s journey also represents a landmark occasion for Team SCA, who have waved goodbye to their Lanzarote training base after 18 months.

The girls are now well into their estimated eight-day sail to the UK, and Onboard Reporter Corinna Halloran believes that the trip is providing important practice for the race proper.

'We are well into a daily routine,' she said. 'A routine that will sustain us for days during this delivery, but will sustain us for weeks during the longest of the legs.'

Having arrived in Southampton following a successful transatlantic crossing from Rhode Island, USA last week, Team Alvimedica have taken the opportunity to enjoy a well-earned break.

Skipper Charlie Enright was delighted with the performance of his team during the voyage, and believes that the unpredictable conditions they encountered only served to strengthen the spirit of his crew.

'I think the trip was incredible for the dynamic. It was the first time with eight crew members, and every little change had an effect in a positive direction,' he said.

'The Round Britain and Ireland Race is the next step for the team. We are using it as training, and trying to learn and hone our skills. It’s a big opportunity, and one we’re excited about.'

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing joined the Rhode Islanders on that transatlantic trip, and will also sail in the race around Britain.

The crew’s Emirati sailor, Adil Khalid, led their Eid festivities this week – and there was double cause for celebration as skipper Ian Walker announced the crew’s ‘One4Azzam’ competition winner.

Keith Burhans, a 58-year-old paralympian from the USA, secured the most votes in the online contest, and will now take his place on board Azzam for the 50-mile Artemis Challenge in Cowes on August 7th.

'Getting the chance to sail with them is a dream come true – a real bucket-list opportunity,' he said.

Team Brunel training - Volvo Ocean Race

Meanwhile, as the rest of the teams prepare to test themselves offshore, Team Brunel are staying firmly on land in order to ensure that they are in the best possible shape for the race.

Along with fitness trainer Dominic Ramino, the crew have been putting in the hours at the gym, and their experienced skipper Bouwe Bekking feels that his team could reap the benefits of that physical superiority when it comes to the big race.

'We have been in the gym every morning for five months. With the help of Ramino, we will stand strong at the start in Alicante,' he said.

And as the beginning of the first leg draws nearer, Pablo Díaz-Munio has been appointed as Race Doctor for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15.

Having worked closely with Ericsson Racing Team in 2008-9, and been the Official Team Doctor for Team Teléfonica in 2011-12, the Spaniard knows all too well the challenges that a race around the world can pose.

'In an event this extreme, minor problems can become major problems, and major problems can become emergencies,' he said.

Díaz-Munio has also accompanied record-breaking mountaineer Edurne Pasaban on three Himalayan campaigns.

Volvo Ocean Race
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