Young Hearts and Minds Launch the Barcelona World Race
As the race pontoon for the Barcelona World Race was opened to the public at 18 days before the two-handed race, non stop around the world starts on 31st December It was not the 16 skippers who took centre stage today but 450 children from as far afield as Andorra, Perpignan and Madrid.
The young visitors - ages spanning primary, secondary and special education - included the winners of a competition to design a 'Live Ocean, Living Planet' poster, reflecting the themes of zero emissions and energy saving. From more than 5000 entries, the winning designs were selected with each of the IMOCA 60s carrying a winning poster around the planet with them. Not only were the winning young artists presented to the skippers today and shown around the race boats, but their whole school class came too. And every member of the class will be taken for a taster sailing lesson courtesy of the Catalan Sailing Federation who colloborate with the Barcelona World Race.
For some competing duos the preparations for the race extend back more than one year, others only got their hands on their IMOCA 60 six weeks or a month ago, but for all of them today's ceremony brings the impending race start into a sharp focus. The reality of racing around the world is almost upon them.
Four years ago the preparations of British skipper Alex Thomson proved to be in vain after he had to remain ashore throughout the course as his infant son was diagnosed with a heart illness. Since then Thomson exorcised his reputation for bad luck with a superlative third place in the Vendee Globe. His third entry into the Barcelona World Race - he was runner up in 2008 with Andrew Cape - sees him partnered by local Barcelona ace Pepe Ribes. Armed with the most recent generation, most proven boat in the fleet, which has sailed the equivalent of a circumnavigation in preparation, Thomson is on confident form:
" Now it feels like there is a race happening." Thomson grins broadly. " The opening of the race village always makes it feel like the race is about to happen. It is always great to see the public coming down and looking at the boats and seeing what we do and taking their pictures. And it means we are close to the start, 19 days to go! I am so looking forwards to it."
As he prepared to take a group of youngsters over his IMOCA 60, Hugo Boss, the father of two adds:
" It is great to see the kids along here, but at home it is not so easy to leave mine. (His son Oscar now a healthy, typically noisy 4 year old). He does not like me leaving this time."
Spirit of Hungary, which in fact is the newest boat in the fleet, finds Nandor Fa, 61, embracing the lighthearted moments today as the children come aboard the boat he designed and built a lot of himself. "By comparison to what we went through before, getting the boat ready to be here, this feels like playing." says the skipper who raced the solo Vendee Globe in 1992-93, finishing fifth.
" More and more this is starting to feel like a race feeling with the kids arriving. It is like i had in the Vendee Globe decades ago. I prefer the calm before the start but I love the kids coming here, being interested. The kids are the future. I hope there is one there who will maybe be inspired to come and do the Barcelona World Race in the future."
If the youngsters awe, inquisitiveness and enthusiasm is inspiring for the skippers, the questions thrown at theme follow slightly predictable themes: food, sleep, toileting, and garbage disposal, Hugo Boss' Barcelona based skipper Pepe Ribes was quizzed if his impending sixth round the world race will mean no access to Facebook for three months.
His compatriot Anna Corbella, co-skipper on GAES Centros Auditivos, was slightly taken aback when one of her visitors asked if he could touch her. As the first Spanish woman to sail around the world, she was in most demand for the seemingly regulation 'selfie', but - as a qualified vet - was also able to give an insight into the marine life she has seen around the oceans. Still, some of the kids could not comprehend the career of the professional sailor.
Didac Costa was asked about missing his family and friends during the three months at sea, aboard One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton. "What do you do when you're tired or when you can’t stop an attack of the giggles?" asked another girl, who along with her pals had seen the French film “En solitaire” based on the Vendée Globe round the world race.
"I've enjoyed it, has been a precious moment," said Spirit of Hungary's Conrad Colman who at age 31 is the youngest skipper in this third edition of the Barcelona World Race, while Germany's Jorg Riechers from Renault Captur concluded:
"Now it really start to feel like we are in the final phase before the start of the race and that feels great. All the children coming on the boat and seeing around is a really big pleasure for me, it is really cool."