A hint of nerves?

Fourteen young winners from all over Spain were joined on the Barcelona World RACE Expo stage this morning by the co-skipper pairs who will start the second edition of the 25,000 miles two handed round the world race at 1300hrs (midday GMT) on Friday.

The youngsters’ individual drawings, each based on the theme ‘Live Ocean Live Planet’ were presented to corresponding teams who then took them and the young artists to their IMOCA Open 60s to stick the images to an appropriate surface on their yacht’s nav stations, where the winning artwork will accompany the sailors around the globe.

Some of the young winners were wide eyed in awe of the situation, but so too some of the skippers were showing clear signs that the start of the race, three days hence, really is now just around the corner.

The seasoned veterans were there – Desjoyeaux, Le Cam, even Spain’s golden couple Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez. All are no strangers to big occasions, and were relaxed and ready as they ticked off another scheduled formality, one of an itinerary of commitments which will count them down to start day. But for others – some rookies, some not – the body language, the odd forced smile for the cameras, perhaps mildly over-animated or quietly reserved, all add up to clear evidence that the pre-start tension is building.

Tomorrow’s final formal pre-start Press Conference (streamed live from midday tomorrow on www.barcelonaworldrace.org ) might be even more instructive.

Following Start Day

Followers from all around the world will be able to watch Friday’s start streamed live online on the Barcelona World RACE website. Not only will online viewers be able to see who makes the best start, but they may also follow the historic procession from the Moll Barcelona World RACE’s Race Fleet Dock, right up until after the start gun sounds and the fleet sets off.

At 0930hrs Barcelona’s Mayor Jordi Hereu will start the departure by collecting the symbolic mooring lines of the first team to leave the Race Fleet Pontoon. Each boat then departs at five minute intervals, making a short parade round the marina for spectators before heading out to sea. Mayor Hereu will take back the symbolic mooring lines, and will safeguard them until the finish again in Barcelona.

For those fortunate enough to be in the Catalan capital on start day, the proceedings and the start will be broadcast live on giant screens at the Plaça del Mar off the Barceloneta beach, and at the Portal de la Pau beside the iconic Columbus statue. And spectators around the Port Vell can have the best vantage points from the Pla Miquel Tarradell.

The start procedure begins at 1250hrs, with a four minutes warning at 1256hrs, one minute warning and then the fleet will either race directly to the north buoy if the wind is in the west (or approximately offshore), or to a windward turning mark before turning left to the north buoy. From the north buoy it is a direct course to the Straits of Gibraltar, the gateway to the Atlantic. The live web transmission is scheduled to start at 0930hrs and will continue until 1330hrs.

Reliability and relationships

For the technical teams, the shore crew who seek to send their teams off the start line with their IMOCA Open 60s in the best possible, most reliable, most optimised shape, the day of reckoning is almost upon them. Even if each knows that few teams will get round with their boat and equipment entirely unscathed, the universal key for each and every team is to know every centimetre, every bolt, every lashing of their boat, and their skippers.

For Jean-Paul Roux, the technical chief for Michel Desjoyeaux’s projects, who has been with the French skipper since his first Vendée Globe win in 2000-2001, this may now almost feel like a routine. The two men know each other inside out. But so too they know that familiarity can breed complacency. And they have the experience of Desjoyeaux’s 2008 Vendée Globe return to Les Sables d’Olonne uppermost in their contingency planning. The level of trust between the two ensures that any solutions, whether pre-planned or spontaneous, will be the best possible in the times of crisis.

The role of Magali Paret, who project-manages Mirabaud, benefits from her special relationship as daughter of co-skipper Michèle Paret, not least in reading the mood and morale on board. Similarly Harry Spedding, who as Dee Caffari’s partner and her project manager, knows the race will be as much about the emotional rollercoaster as well as the highly technical challenges.

Riding the beast

Alex Thomson(GBR), Hugo Boss:

“One of the big reasons why we wanted to do this is because Juan K is one of the most eminent designers, he absolutely dominated the Volvo. You know this boat was originally designed for Mike Sanderson, it’s an evolution of ABN AMRO, they learnt the lessons for Ericsson 4. The numbers and the polars in fact look very similar to a Volvo 70.”

“The hard thing is, can we operate it at its potential?”

“You’ve got to look at it this way: that boat is a Volvo 70, but 60ft and 4 tonnes lighter – and THEY call it Life at the Extreme?!”

“But we’re used to it. I think everybody knows – all these guys know as well as we do – that when the boat’s in stability conditions we should be fast.

The Transition

Dee Caffari (GBR) GAES Centros Auditivos:

“I want Anna to sail across the finish line in her home city – she’s going to be the first Spanish female sailor to sail around the world non-stop, and that’ll be really nice.”

“But for me, I want to go from the adventure to performance, I want to be competitive now, and I have some goals that I’ve set where I know how long I spent in the south in the Vendée and I want to make sure I’m faster than that. I want to be closer to the lead pack, and I want to be kind of fighting a bit more for my position so I’m looking to come in the top third.”

Support team

Harry Spedding(GBR) Project Manager GAES Centros Auditivos:

“The plan is absolutely not to stop. Obviously as time goes on and there is wear and tear you see how the fleet is, but the plan is not to stop. Partly because part of the aim is to have Anna become the first Spanish woman to sail non-stop around the world, but competition is the main priority.”

“We go into standby mode that we know, always waiting for the phone to ring at four in the morning. You check the polls every two hours even knowing they are updated every four hours. And I always find it tough, but some of that is a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you know they are getting tough weather it is hard. For Joff Brown (Boat Captain) it gets easier because he knows Dee’s experience is greater now, but for me (as Dee’s partner) I know that she will be pushing harder, so I think it will be harder this time for me.”

“From the boat Joff is always the first point of contact. Dee calls me for the normal conversations something like every three days. Anna speaks to a few friends, but most of all Jaume on We Are Water, it was his boat she did the Mini on.

“We actually try to get Dee and Joff to speak more often because it is healthy for Joff to have an understanding of what is going on, and it is important he asks pertinent questions on wear and tear, keeping a running history. And Dee will tend to phone more often as she gets closer to the finish. Dee likes to have a potted synopsis of what’s going on in the rest of the world. I’ll send a mail from time to time with news, but this time there is no rubbish TV on at home!”

Jean-Paul Roux(FRA), Technical chief Foncia:

“My role consists of organising the race follow-up, to establish a link between the boat, the technical team, and the communication department. But my first priority is safety.”

“Every boat gave the Race Management the name of a person in charge of safety who is contactable 24 hours a day, no matter where they are on the planet. That means I have to be available at any moment. Every day I listen to the radio vacations, I follow everything that is reported from the race and I report to the boat as necessary.”

“With regard to our technical team, my aim once the race has started is to allow each member of the team to take a break in turn, because they have worked non-stop to first build the boat, then prepare it for the Road du Rhum, and then the Barcelona World Race. However, they have to remain on standby to answer any urgent technical questions coming from the boat…