SPAIN’S Olympic gold medallist Xabi Fernandez has been confirmed as MAPRE skipper in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.
The 40-year-old, who has taken part in the Volvo Ocean Race four times, won Olympic gold in Athens 2004, and followed that up with a silver in 2008, both times alongside his long-term sailing partner Iker Martínez.
The two men shared leadership duties during MAPFRE’s 2014-15 campaign but with Iker making the decision to focus on other professional projects, Xabi will take sole charge this time of the Spanish campaign. He said: “The Volvo Ocean Race is an enormously difficult challenge combining human adventure, world-class sport, technical expertise, logistics on a global scale, and a unique communications platform.” He continued, “Being fortunate enough to be back on the start line, with a chance to claim victory, is something that we are very proud of, and I’m thankful to MAPFRE for believing in a project that began back in 2014.”
Xabi will return to the Volvo Ocean Race after finishing his work for Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup campaign. He said they will take delivery of the boat at the end of the month before the real work starts: “We have eight months of hard work and optimisation ahead, not only in terms of the boat, but the performance of the team, so that we can depart Alicante on October 22 with a real possibility of winning.”
MAPFRE competed in the Volvo Ocean Race for the first time in 2014-15, continuing a long-standing tradition that has seen Spanish-flagged boats in eight of the previous 12 editions.
Antonio Huertas, President of MAPFRE, said: “Xabi is a fantastic skipper, who is committed to MAPFRE and shares our values. This addition is magnificent news for the campaign. We know that he will proudly carry the MAPFRE name around the world.”
The Volvo Ocean Race starts in Alicante on October 22 and will finish in The Hague at the end of June 2018. The Race will feature a total of 12 host cities and take the teams over 45,000 nautical miles around the world.