Route du Rhum : Barcelona’s Alex Pella first ever Spanish skipper to finish first
"It is a dream come true. I am so happy, for a Spaniard it is fantastic"
Wednesday 19 November 2014 –
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Pella sets a new course record of 16d17h47m8s, beating the 2010 mark held by Thomas Ruyant for the 40 foot Class 17d 23h 10m by 1d 5h 23m 09s.
After starting off Saint Malo on his 42nd birthday, Sunday 2nd November, the Catalan sailor took 16d17h47m8s to complete the 3,542 miles course, at a theroretical average speed of 8.82kts. In reality he sailed 4,336 miles at an average of 10.79kts.
One year ago Pella and his co-skipper Pablo Santurde finished second in the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed race to Franceto Brazil. On the dock Pella expressed his regrets then that - but for a costly pitstop into La Coruna to repair their rudder - they should have won Class40 on the lightning fast Botin designed Tales 2 Santander.
This time, solo, Pella has no such cause for regret, only celebration. Ironically, though, he has been so quick that he arrived ahead of schedule, before his friends and family could get to Pointe a Pitre.
With his immaculately executed race - his first Route du Rhum - Pella becomes the first Spanish sailor to finish first in any Class in the Route du Rhum which was first raced in 1978. And, by extension, he is the first Spanish sailor to win any solo ocean race. Barcelona born and bred Pella adds to his second and third places in the Mini650 class’s Mini Transat in 2005 and 2003 respectively and his fourth in the IMOCA class’ two handed round the world Barcelona World Race in 2010-2011.
Having trained and tuned in relative isolation from Santander, into the Atlantic from Spain’s NW corner, Pella sailed alone and with his team apart from the mainly French based Class40 circuit. Pre-start in Saint Malo many considered Alex Pella the dark horse, but those in the know had him quietly ranked as a favourite.
From the start signal Pella and Tales 2 were always in the leading group. Some initial damage, including a Solent primary headsail torn in the height of the first gale, but he pushes hard and is rewarded. When Sebastien Rogues - one of the favourites who had won most of the Class40 races over the last two years - had to withdraw with gear failure, Pella is well placed in the leading trio, opening steadily away from the pursuing group. Downwind and reaching in the Trade Winds, Tales 2 often shows a clear edge in speed.
Three days ago he told the live daily radio conference: "I think this is a very good boat, but its about the total package, it is good design, very good build, and we have worked hard to have all the right set ups, the sails are very good -me, I am not bad - I think that all the things on board have worked very well in this race."
On November 11th descending a corridor of squalls, laden with wind changes and heavy rain, Pella takes the lead. His work rate stands out, reporting a night that he made 25 gybes. But that small jump becomes magnified as he leads into better, more stable Trade Winds and his margin grows. Three days before his finish into Pointe-a-Pitre he is more than 100 miles ahead of second placed Thibault Vauchel-Camus.
His win is a triumph for an all Spanish team who may have set the bar high, but at heart they are a group of friends who all work at a very high level in world sailing. The sum of their talents is a great showcase for the best of Spanish sailing. The boat was designed by Botin Partners for principal designer Marcelino’s brother Gonzalo. It has been project manager Antonio ’Talpi’ Piris with a sail programme overseen by Juan Messeguer. While Pella confirms his status as Spain’s foremost solo sailor, he has worked hard to build miles on the boat and - among his nearest rivals has sailed many more miles, around 23,000 miles including last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre and the return delivery.
Perhaps as much as anything the rudder damage last year was the spur to make sure everything about Tales 2’s preparation was geared towards reliability as well as speed. With the benefit of many miles under her keel, a certain degree of reliability is built in but Pella also sailed a mature race, long since learning his limits and how to pace himself. Solo racing he used to know when he was too deep into the red zone of fatigue when he found himself ’talking’ to his brothers, but now he is better able to modulate his energy reserves.
One of four brothers who all started out cruising on a succession of family boats, Pella has become a talented allround sailor whose experience now spans everything from the Mini650 to the IMOCA 60s on which he raced round the world to the maxi Trimaran Prince de Bretagne. Now he sets his sights on the pinnacle solo round the world race, the Vendee Globe. As Tales 2’s owner Gonzalo Botin wryly notes: "I am sure if Alex was French he would already have backing to do the Vendée Globe"
First words from Alex upon arrival in Guadeloupe:
"At the start I had a good feeling but the rudder kicked up just before the start and that was a bit tough, but then I passed second at Cape Frehel, I could see I had a good speed and a good course, but to win you have to finish. And it was only really at the finish line I knew I had done it.
I feel so very happy. I am a little emotional right now because it was so important for this all Spanish project to arrive here in the top position. The race was really hard, the rhythm is very hard, very intense. The first two nights were really hard, I broke the Solent and repaired it the next day, that was the sail I needed to do Ushant to Finisterre and so there I lost some miles to Seb, to Kito and to Thibault, but the other day when I got a big wrap with A2 round the forestay and today I had to go up and cut it free. It was a bad day but I had 120 miles of lead from Thibault. Coming in was hard because I had to go downwind to fix the sail off the forestay and when I came back to the land it was night, it was interesting to be on the coast and then there was no wind. But all the time it was very emotional for me, because there was no one around, no other competitors, but I was also enjoying the island the time there.
It is a dream come true. I am so happy, for a Spaniard it is fantastic."
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