An exchange

Text by Jonno Turner
Fastnet in focus
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An exchange Text by Jonno Turner
“I’ve never done the Fastnet before,” smiles Volvo Ocean Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante. “It’s a famous event, but this is my first time.”

The Spaniard, who works at Alicante HQ, usually spends his days during race time watching the little dots navigate the world’s toughest oceans.

But right now, he’s getting a taste of the sea salt for himself, as he’s taking part in the Fastnet race which set off from Cowes yesterday.

“It’s really cool,” he says, gesturing towards his teammate, Sam Matson, who is currently part of the Artemis Offshore Academy. “These guys, their aspiration is to do the Volvo Ocean Race.”

“Sam came to me and said he’d like to do some training in weather and navigational strategy, and I have been wanting to do some racing in these smaller boats – so I guess you could say it was an exchange of sorts.”

Their team name? Chatham Marine – a company local to Sam’s home in Exeter, Devon.

“He’s been in the Artemis scheme for two years, doing really well,” continues Gonzalo.

“It’s kind of the university of offshore sailing. They’re full time, working on their offshore skills.”

He smiles. “I really enjoy teaching, too. It’s super fun, and it’s important in sailing to have a good teacher – you can learn all the important things and it saves time.”

Sam, who’s 24 years old, is delighted to be working with such an important part of the Volvo Ocean Race team.

“Oh yeah, I’m a big fan of the Volvo Ocean Race,” he says. “Obviously, being a Figaro sailor, I was really interested in the one-design perspective this edition, to see how it was going to work.

“It was brilliant - and of course, I’d love to do a Volvo Ocean Race."

"I look at teams like Groupama and Dongfeng, with lots of solo sailors, and realise that it is possible for a group of Figaro sailors to come together and create a really good team.”

“The first time I actually met Gonzalo was last week – we’ve spoken a few times on Skype, but I think it’s going to be great fun. I really wanted to gain knowledge from the trip.

“I’ve been brought up in more of a French sailing culture recently, so I think there are two different styles there and that could benefit us. I’m looking forward to it.”

And meeting Gonzalo isn’t Sam’s first taste of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“I was lucky enough to spend some time with Ian Walker last year when he came to some of our training sessions,” he says.

“It was a really cool experience to hang out with and talk to him, and it definitely made me want to do a Volvo in the future.”

And as the record-size fleet left the dock in little to no wind yesterday, and began winging its way west towards Land’s End, the pair, sailing in a Figaro II, already have a few secrets up their sleeves.

“I’ve done way more research for this race with a small boat than I would’ve had to do with a big boat, as we can sail in places that a big boat cannot,” explains Gonzalo.

“The main thing is, just like in the Volvo Ocean Race, you need confidence in where you’re sailing. But being in a smaller boat definitely gives you some more tools to play with.

“Also, the emotion is higher – doing 10 knots feels like doing 30 knots. We’re running a 24 hours watching system, so for 12 hours a day, we’re each responsible for everything on the boat.”

At 1030 UK time, the pair were placed third in the Figaro II class, having sailed 120nm in just over 22 hours.

Meanwhile, Team SCA, the only Volvo Ocean 65 racing in this event, has notched up 180nm, and is due to finish late afternoon on Wednesday.

"The difference from this Fastnet Race to the last is night and day,” confirms skipper Carolijn Brouwer. 

“Two years ago we were still working on the basics and trying to steer in a straight line and get manoeuvres right.

"We also didn't know each other very well - we'd worked together in Lanzarote but we were still in the middle of the selection process. Now we're working on very small things, the things that will make a difference.  

"It's these little things that count, and it is what gets you from 95% to 100%."

Some other members of the Volvo Ocean Race family taking part in the Fastnet Race include Team Alvimedica's Dave Swete, Dongfeng's Sidney Gavignet, Kevin Escoffier and Damian Foxall, Team Vestas Wind's Wouter Verbraak, MAPFRE's Michel Desjoyeux and several VOR staff. Good luck to all involved!