Guillermo Altadill: "It is up to the ocean to decide who is the favourite"

Guillermo Altadill has more round the world experience than any other skipper in the Barcelona World Race fleet, garnered from the earlier days of the Whitbread on Fortuna and Galicia-Pescanova, Assa Abloy and Ericsson as well as The Race on the Maxi multi Club Med. He has amassed an incredible number of ocean racing miles over 30 or so years on all types of craft.

Interviews DEC 20, 2014 09:32

But the Barcelona World Race, the two handed round the world race which is initiated and run from his own home city, so far eludes him. In the inaugural edition when he sailed with American Jonathan McKee the duo had to retire into Cape Town with rudder problems. And he did not compete in the 2010-11 edition. He sails with Chile’s Jose Munoz on Neutrogena which he raced to second place in the 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre as Hugo Boss. Indeed he has a long history with the Farr design, it was originally built as BT before he trained and raced on board as Estrella Damm. He was instrumental in persuading Alex Thomson to buy the boat on which he then finished third in the last Vendée Globe. Without doubt they are podium contenders, but Altadill says he feels no pressure:

Compared to all the races you have done, how does this preparation feel? And people call Neutrogena a favourite…what do you think?
I feel we have prepared for the race well and properly, we have a good team, we have had the opportunity to train with two boats but in this type of race it is difficult to say there is a favourite. We have everything we need in place to do a good job. But after that it is up to the ocean to decide who is the favourite.

I think our preparation this time is one of the best I have been involved in, in terms of having the boat ready. We have had just the right length of time really, not too much time that you become stale and become bored with each other. We have had a good preparation, broken things and fixed them. Obviously when you have an older boat you have problems during two and a half months and five thousand miles. We have already sailed the equivalent of half the course, so 12,000 miles together, two up, two Transatlantics plus to and from England. So that is a good amount of miles a compromise between testing the boat and not fatiguing it or breaking it.

Strengths and weaknesses?
Our strong points is that we have done this type of races – doublehanded. We know the boat which is very simple, not complicated and it has been prepared very well. A lot of skippers have passed over this boat in the last five or six years. The weak points I suppose is that the boat is older. But I know this boat so well. I have certainly sailed the equivalent of one round the world race on her so far. I sailed on this boat in the beginning. Actually I did a couple of Transatlantics with Alex Thomson as well, so 30,000 miles. I have sailed with different sponsor. We have done a little work with sails, but have new sails, roughly the same as the sails Alex had at the start of the Vendee Globe. We keep the boat simple and don’t make too many changes because the boat is pretty much at 100 per cent of its potential. We could make it faster but can’t make it more reliable. So we have not many any big changes since Alex Vendée Globe.

And how will you two work, are you structured or free thinking?
We work a system where we work on a more free basis, depending on how we feel, so we really just work how we feel. But we are trying to have the boat at 100% of the time and so that means that we will be working together a lot of the time, many times we are working together. Jose is better in the areas like the mechanical things and I am more with the weather and going fast in the right direction, sailing the boat.

Strategically and navigation, are you a match for the experienced solo-ists like Alex, Jean Le Cam, Stamm?
Can I match them? Can they match me? I sailed the Volvo with some of the best navigators in the world. To be a good sailor you have to sail with the best sailors in the world and learn from a lot of them. In terms of navigators I sailed with the best I have learned from are like Mark Rudiger, Wouter Verbraak, Steve Hayles, you take a little from each of them and learn a lot, so if they have more experience solo I am confident I am good on strategy because I have learned from some of the best. You learn from these people how to make decisions and why.

Spanish race, based out of Barcelona, you have the CV, the experience, the boat, the team, the support and the race has not yet been won by a Spanish skipper, do you feel pressure and is there a rivalryfelt to be the first Spanish winner?
I never feel any pressure at all. I don’t think we are one of the favourites at all. I release the pressure. The only pressure I have is finishing the race. To finish first, second or third tends to be a consequence of finishing. There is no rivalry between us Spanish, I have more rivalry with Alex. When we did the New York-Barcelona we were fighting to the end.