He is leading the Spanish campaign in the race – a full-time job in its own right.
He has a family back home in the Basque country, with two young sons.
Ah, and he is training for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
“I have to go and focus on this project now,” explains Iker.
“When we started the Volvo, we knew that I already had another commitment with the Olympic campaign.
“That’s why I won’t be able to be onboard for the next leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China.”
To replace him at the helm of the red boat, Iker picked his old friend and sailing partner Xabi Fernández. A discreet, solid and smiley man, Xabi is Iker’s other half on the water.
They make a loyal pair, having sailed many years together. They’ve won two Olympic medals for Spain and entered four Volvo Ocean Races together.
And another Olympic medalist, Rafael Trujillo, will step onboard MAPFRE in the next leg.
Iker will now leave Abu Dhabi for Miami, where he will train and compete in Nacra 17 with Marina Lopez, his partner onboard this Olympic sport catamaran.
“For sure, in the evening, I won’t stop checking our progress,” he adds.
But Xabi has all it takes to skipper MAPFRE. In 2010-11, he sailed double-handed around the world with Iker in the Barcelona World Race and took second.
“Being the skipper represents more responsibilities than I usually have because you’re ultimately the one who is in charge,” he comments.
“We won’t face the next leg like we faced the other ones because the truth is that Iker was always the one making the final call. That will change. But I believe we have a group that will help me in this new role.”
“We’ve organised this transition together,” adds his mate, Iker, “and we’ve used the second leg to tackle this in the best possible way.”
“I’m sure Xabi will do very well.”
MAPFRE crew list for Leg 3
Xabi Fernández, skipper
Jean-Luc Nélias, navigator
André Fonseca, watch captain
Robert Greenhalgh, watch captain
Rafael Trujillo, trimmer/helmsman
Anthony Marchand, trimmer/helmsman
Carlos Hernández, trimmer/bowman
Antonio “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons, bowman
Francisco Vignale, Onboard Reporter