Racers Arrive in Alicante with 37 Days to Go

Team Telefonica and Team Sanya have both arrived in Alicante from their training bases in Lanzarote and the UK, respectively.

Team Telefónica today became the first team to arrive in Alicante for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, with skipper Iker Martínez and his crew receiving a warm welcome in the Spanish sunshine.

Four-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran Neal McDonald said it was like returning home for the team, having launched the Volvo Open 70 Telefónica at Alicante.

With just over five weeks until the first In-Port Race McDonald said the anticipation was building and the start line was in sight.

“It is the final stretch now,” he said. “There is a different air about things.

“We launched the boat here so there is a familiarity about it. It’s nice to be settled and get into a routine. We’ve got a fairly clear plan about what we’re going to be doing here.

“It’s a good place to get things done because we know the local workshop, we know where all the local shops are to buy and purchase what we need. It’s a very comfortable place to be at this time.’’

Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad said the arrival of Team Telefónica at Alicante was a very significant moment for the race and the team.

“Until now the teams have been doing their own things, but once they get to Alicante they really are in the Volvo Ocean Race,’’ he said. “I’m impressed that Telefónica are the first team to arrive – it shows that they are very well prepared and they are clearly going to be very competitive.”

McDonald said the team have been busy intensively testing sails at Lanzarote and refining their crew work at Sanxenxo ahead of the final preparations that lay ahead in Alicante.

The team have clocked more than 9,000 nautical miles of training in the past four months.

Team Sanya are due to arrive in Alicante next, following the completion of their 2,000 nautical mile qualifying passage from the UK later this week.

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand made a brief stop in Alicante last week before heading to Palma where they will base themselves until next week.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Groupama sailing team and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion will join their race rivals in Alicante before the cut-off date of October 3.

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Team Sanya celebrated their arrival in Alicante with a bumper order of takeaway burgers and cold beer — a meal they wolfed down in quick time after six tough days at sea.

Mike Sanderson’s crew, who used the trip from the UK as their 2,000 mile qualifying sail, are the second of the entries to arrive in Alicante, where the race will start on October 29. Team Telefónica set up camp on Tuesday.

Sanderson said that being in Alicante was a significant milestone given that the project only launched in June.

“Arriving in Alicante means we have entered the final phase before the start of the Volvo Ocean Race,” said Sanderson, whose team demolished 11 double whoppers and 21 cheeseburgers within minutes of stepping ashore. “The bonus is that we are exactly where we hoped to be – not behind and not ahead of schedule.”

According to Sanderson, the extreme conditions helped the crew to gel and build their confidence in their second-hand boat Sanya, which raced as Telefónica Blue in the previous edition.

“This was our Volvo Ocean Race qualification trip but we have also been able to put the boat and the crew through its paces on the way. This is a great boat and she feels really fast compared to the last race I did in 2005-06.”

For Chinese sailor Teng Jiang He, known to his new team mates as Tiger, this was the longest time he had ever spent at sea. Seemingly undaunted, he said the experience had been hard work and uncomfortable but enjoyable nevertheless.

Photo by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race

“At times it has been wet and it’s been windy and very hard but always for me this has been a great experience,” he said. “We have been travelling very fast in the windy conditions – on several days we did over 500 nautical miles in 24-hours. Now we are here in the Alicante sunshine and we are all very pleased to be here.”

Sanderson said that all the crew were impressed with how quickly Tiger had adapted to life aboard a Volvo Open 70.

“It wasn’t in our wildest dreams that we imagined we would find a Chinese sailor who would become so adept at ocean sailing so quickly. He fits in really well and works incredibly hard. He is a great team member, a real character and he is just a pleasure to be around.”

The latest crewmember to join the Team Sanya crew, 28-year old Bert Schandevyl from Belgium had done just two weeks of training before setting off for Alicante and a race that will not finish until July.

“I had to say to my girlfriend, my family, my friends that I’m off, I’m leaving for nine months,” he said. “But I’m living a dream. I’m walking on cloud nine right now.

“I love the spirit of the team. We have a very experienced skipper and there are some really good people involved. I hope we can cause a few upsets sometimes.”

Echoing Schandevyl’s sentiment, Sanderson reaffirmed his team’s overall goal for the forthcoming edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“Our aim remains to get on the podium a few times, get in the other teams’ way, take some points off them and hopefully have some fun along the way.”

Text, video, and photos via Volvo Ocean Race

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