Volvo Ocean race skippers look ahead to the 2017-18 race
By Dev Trehan
Last Updated: 10/11/17 1:48pm
Seven crews, 11 legs and 45,000 nautical miles. The teams depart from Alicante on Sunday for the ultimate test in sport - the Volvo Ocean Race.
With just four stopovers in the inaugural race in 1973, the 2017-18 edition features 12 stops across six continents before the race draws to a close at the Dutch port of The Hague at the end of June next year.
Forty years after the Clare Francis became the first woman to lead a team, record-breaking sailor Dee Caffari will hope she can follow in the footsteps of Ian Walker, who became the first Briton in history to skipper a team to victory in the race.
Caffari is the only woman in history to sail solo non-stop around the world in both directions and had her first taste of the Volvo Ocean Race as part of the all-female Team SCA in the last edition.
The Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper said: "In terms of sailing around the world solo or with a team, it makes a big difference when you have people to share it with and you have more pairs of hands when things happen.
"The intensity is the thing that gave me the buzz in a team environment, and knowing that you're pushing 100-percent all the time. Your peers around you punish any mistake you make. It's that intensity that attracts me.
"Everyone talks about Turn the Tide on Plastic as inexperienced. A lot of my sailors are first timers but they are very skilled sailors and they can make a boat go fast. We just need to make sure we don't make any mistakes, and that we sail to the right place.
"To create an opportunity for young sailors to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race and see them grow and blossom is a great privilege as well as getting to spread a great sustainability message."
MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández, who sailed with Ben Ainslie in the 35th edition of the America's Cup earlier this year, is comfortable with his team being regarded as favourites for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.
He said: "For us it's not about being the favourites. That's not something we talk about, but we do realise that people think that way. It just makes me think we are ready.
"We have to sail as fast as we can. I think we are ready but I know these guys around us, on the other teams, are going to be ready as well.
"Hopefully, we can win. I don't know. We've been close before and it didn't happen. We know how difficult and long it is to win the race."
Team Brunel's veteran skipper Bouwe Bekking is delighted with the late addition of Rio gold medallist and seven-time world champion Peter Burling to his team.
Bekking said "He's won the Olympics, won the America's Cup, and we also have Kyle Langford, who won the Cup twice.
"The America's Cup sailors approach the race differently from us, the old school guys. They have a great intensity, and they look hard at everything to do with performance."
Dongfeng Race Team skipper Charles Caudrelier is relishing the prospect of leading a team for the first time in the Volvo Ocean Race.
He said: "What's the difference between doing the race as crew and skipper? The salary!
"There's also the responsibility, of course. When I did the Volvo Ocean Race with Groupama, when I arrived at every stopover my mind was able to switch off.
"This time, throughout nine months you never stop. The big pressure never stops. But I have a strong team around me so I'm a lucky skipper I think."