Anna Corbella: "We've sailed together so much that Gerard and I already think alike"

Anna Corbella well known in her home country as the first Spanish woman to circumnavigate the world nonstop and unassisted. But the slightly shy Catalan woman who misses her beach walks with her Golden Retriever dog as much as anything or anyone when she is at sea, is almost embarrassed at her recognition, and even more the strapline... ”the first Spanish woman to…”

Interviews NOV 12, 2014 11:18

But the title is still a calling card, a easily understood measure of her mettle and drive, the fire in her belly which is driving her forwards to her second Barcelona World Race, after finishing sixth in the 2010/2011 edition.


Corbella began her career in dinghy sailing. She was the 420 Spanish champion in the female category in 1999 and in 470 class in 2000, and she retains the slender, wiry fitness of a 470 sailor. So she has had to bulk up and put on some muscle to go ocean racing on the powerful IMOCA 60s these past years. She graduated from dinghies to the Mini 650.  Mostly she raced the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, always aboard the tiny 6.5m high tech cockleshell racers. But the in 2009 her talent was recognized and she jumps to the Figaro class before stepping up in 2011 when she trained and raced alongside the British skipper Dee Caffari.


Looking ahead to her second Barcelona World Race she starts:


"I'm nervous, yes, but by comparison I am much more confident than in my first round the world race. Now I know where I'm going and what I can expect”.


Corbella competes in the third edition of the race next to Gerard Marin. Individually they are a calm woman and an impulsive man. But they share GAES Centros Auditivos, a boat "quick and comfortable" which they hope to finish the Barcelona World Race in less than 100 days.


How do you feel being so close to the start?

Nerves begin to set in because so few weeks are left. You begin to see everything you can’t do. On the to do list there are always things you say 'there’s no time to do it'. But I know what awaits me. This does give me some kind of inner peace, some confidence that it will all work out. I am not so scared. Although the nerves are rumbling around inside me somewhere


What do you think you will not have time to do?

We would have liked to have more time to sail and try new things, especially electronics. But, whatever, it is what it is and we have learned so much in recent months, so I can not complain, and we still have some time.


You said before that you know what to expect. How would you summarize your last Barcelona World Race?

It was, for me, a voyage of discovery, especially racing in the big South and sailing the IMOCA 60. I remember it intensely. I already knew the Atlantic and this type of boat, but I cherish very strong and very good memories of the South.


Do you have a challenge or a personal desire to do before the start?

This year I would like to celebrate New Year's Eve. Clearly I am not going to celebrate it the day before the start, but I want to make a farewell party with my friends and celebrate that we are at the start, that means a lot to me.


What is your biggest fear in the race?

What scares me more is simply to break some things. The things you don’t control are the things that can break; especially if you break something big. I have my obsessions with rudders, the mast and the keel. If there is a fault in any of these three elements, you have a serious problem, you can’t do anything.


And what do you face with more enthusiasm?

Everything. The project. The race. Gerard and I understand each other very well. We have grown together in this project and we have reached the point of really having a great harmony on board, working as one person. We're a good team and I look forward to sailing with him in these conditions. But of course I say this now… things can change after a month racing hard [laughs].


How are you as a team?

We are a very fair team. We ensure that there’s no boss, we are equal. We understand very well, we have sailed together so much that we think alike. In addition, we have had very similar careers. First dinghy, then the mini class, and together we did the 2012 Transat AGR in the Figaro class. At first we discussed a lot, saw things differently. But sailing together now for so long makes we share the same measures, the sam criteria. In the end what you want is the boat going fast and not breaking, it is a shared goal.


In the GAES Centros Auditivos presentation you said you were the brake.

Well, more than a brake, maybe I'm the voice of common sense. Gerard is very impulsive, he always gives one hundred percent. This can sometimes, occasionally backfire. Sometimes it happens he is so fast with a sheet that has to do it again because he hasn’t done it well, or because he hasn’t thought how to leave it tidy.  You have to know how to manage all your efforts and you have to think. But this speed can also be very good. He can do things that I am still thinking about how and where. This can be very decisive in some circumstances. I'm more Gerard’s brake than the boat’s brake.  


How do you define yourself as a sailor?

I think I'm calm. And I do like to win, although I may not be as competitive as Gerard. I like the boat going fast and I'm sensitive to it. But I lack his energy, the desire to be always up and at it whatever, to the level Gerard has. I'm slow, I think too much and I am sometimes slow in doing things.


How is the boat?

Compared with last edition one, the boat is faster, more comfortable too. It is equally reliable. This boat has done two round the world races and can calmly do a third.


You're the first Spanish woman who has sailed around the world nonstop and unassisted...

It's something I carry with pride, but this should not be news. Clearly, if there is a first there will be a second woman to do it. But I think it’s sad that this is portrayed as a big deal, it is as if women have a handicap when sailing. Yes, we may have a bit less strength, but this does not stop us from doing anything. When I sail, I do not think about these things. I would like to see more women sailing round the world, though.


Less than 100 days? Is that the objective?

Less than 100 days is a realistic goal. In the last edition I finished in 102 days, but ice gates were far north and we had to go through New Zealand. This year we do not go through the Cook Strait and still do not know where is the exclusion zone. With this boat and sailing with Gerard I think we can finish in less than 100 days.