Aleix Gelabert: "I am ready, I could leave today"

Ex Mini650 sailor Aleix Gelabert is one of the rookies who is looking forward to this Barcelona World Race 2014/2015. The Spanish co-skipper says he is all ready for the challenge of racing around the world, non stop, for the first time. He is paired up with another rookie, Didac Costa, who is also one of Spain's newer generation of Mini650 sailors. 

Interviews NOV 24, 2014 17:44

But if it is is a big step up from the Mini to the IMOCA60 they have great faith in their boat, One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton, which started life as Ellen MacArthur's Kingfisher which must just about know its way round the planet itself. The pair have a major additional agenda as well as racing, as they colloborate with a series of environmental and oceanographic research projects as they sail around the world.

Gelabert knows the 'old girl' - launched in 2000 and which famously took MacArthur second in the Vendee Globe - has already completed three round the world races and remains a solid, reliable IMOCA which should serve them well. He has experience of the Atlantic, having done the 2011 MiniTransat. And he worked with Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella as shore crew prior to the 2010/2011 Barcelona World Race.

Now at 37 years old with a wide sailing experience, Gelabert reports that he is calm and prepared for what lies ahead, finishing the race being top of their targets.

How do you feel a few weeks before starting your first around the world race?

I'm quietly serene but at the same time very excited. There is a lot of work ahead. I can see the start is some time away yet, but it also feels so close. Right now we are still working every day. And so really there is not so much time to ponder the start.

I guess going sailing around the world is one of your dreams...

It is something that as a child I always wanted to do. I've seen reports in magazines and on television... What attracts me is the sacrifices you have to make before and during the race, but a personal satisfaction will be immense to complete the race.

What makes you most excited?

To take it on and, above all, to finish this race. Rounding Cape Horn is clearly something mythical and I guess I'll enjoy it as one of the highlights. Then you have to live with the South and you always think it will be very hard, but eventually you get used to it, they say. We'll see what happens.

Do you think you will have to deal with the feeling of 'what am I doing here'?

For sure! It already happened to me before. It would surprise me if it doesn’t happen this time too, probably more than once! Although it being two up and not solo helps. When you're alone and something is troubling you, you don’t have anyone to talk about it. Having someone to talk to and share all kinds of things helps.

Are you afraid of something in this race?

Afraid? I have nothing but respect for the sea. I get very scared with lightning, thunderstorms. They are pretty much uncontrollable. You're in the middle of the ocean and you can do nothing. Everything else, wind, waves, breaking things, if you are prepared, as we are, you should be able to deal with, for better or worse according to your experience and other factors, but nothing else worries me.

So you think you're really ready for the race.

Yes, I think I could leave today. But there is still time to keep learning things. It is also true that I now feel ready to take on the goal we have. If I had a better boat or a more ambitious goal perhaps I would not be saying I am ready.

And what is your goal?

Finishing. That is the main goal, finishing the race in as few days as possible. We will always try to push hard. But we will keep in mind that we have a boat who is an ‘older girl’ and we have to take care of her and if we do that she will take care of us. We also have the experience we have, so we'll do our best.

The boat is old, but very reliable.

Yes, no doubt. It has already completed three around the world races, two Barcelona World Race and one Vendée Globe. She also has a DNF at another Vendée Globe. It is an ‘old style boat’, very solid. Any boat can break things, whether or not it’s said to be reliable, so we hope to break as little as is possible and be able to repair them on the go.

You are the only rookie team in this regatta…

It is a handicap because we have no experience of some of the specific situations that we will face. But I don’t know it's better or worse for us. It is clear that an experienced person can help and guide you in case of doubt; but inexperience leads you sometimes to do things that someone with experience would not have done or would have approached more cautiously.

How is your relationship with Didac Costa?

We know each other from many years ago, since 2008 when I started with the Mini. And now we have a good partnership over eight months based on ‘living’ together. We have, so far, a relationship of professional friendship. Now we’ll have three months to make it work and really live together in this small space with the daily stresses and so we will know each other better!

Eight months is enough time to prepare a project of this magnitude?

No, it’s not enough, eight months is a very short time. It also depends on the budget you have. Budgets decide the preparation time. Otherwise, you spend money on salaries instead of spending it on the boat. You need to find the balance.

Would you like to take part in the next edition of the Barcelona World Race?

Maybe at the end of the Barcelona World Race I won't even want to go sailing again… who knows. But if I had to sign up for the next edition, I’d do it right now.