START­ING LINE

He doesn’t say much be­cause his ex­pe­ri­ence says it all.

Sailing World - - Contents -

O What’s a Volvo Ocean Race team director to do when one of his starters is put on the in­jured re­serve be­fore the start of a cru­cial 7,000-mile leg from Lis­bon to Cape Town? Simple: Find the guy who can prac­ti­cally do it in his sleep. For Ves­tas 11th Hour Racing’s Mark Tow­ill, the search to tem­po­rar­ily fill team­mate Phil Harmer’s sea boots led to Spa­niard Roberto Ber­múdez de Cas­tro, a six- time vet­eran and two-time win­ner of the race who hap­pened to be look­ing for a ride to Cape Town. Weeks ear­lier, be­fore the race start in Ali­cante, Ber­múdez de Cas­tro parted ways with Team Akzo No­bel and was hang­ing around Lis­bon as an ea­ger free agent.

“He was very keen to do the leg,” says Tow­ill. “To get a guy with his ex­pe­ri­ence was a no­brainer.” Ves­tas 11th Hour nav­i­ga­tor Si­mon Fisher won the pre­vi­ous edition with Ber­múdez de Cas­tro on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, but the rest of the team had yet to ex­pe­ri­ence the quiet ef­fi­ciency of the guy nick­named Chuny. “He’s very fo­cused on the per­for­mance but able to keep things light,” says Tow­ill.

There were many mo­ments in the 19- day oceanic sprint when Ber­múdez de Cas­tro’s ex­pe­ri­ence helped his team­mates main­tain pace with leg win­ners Mapfre and run­ner-up Dongfeng. “He has fan­tas­tic feel for the boat — when to change sails and when to shift the stack,” says Tow­ill. “At the be­gin­ning of the leg, he kept say­ing, in his Span­ish ac­cent, ‘ It can even hap­pen in the best fam­i­lies,’ when he was talk­ing about over­trim­ming the sails. At first, I didn’t quite un­der­stand, but I caught on, and it be­came a lit­tle joke. We’d ask, ‘Best fam­i­lies?’ mean­ing, ‘Is the sail over­trimmed?’”

A lit­tle levity on board goes a long way, says Tow­ill, and in this depart­ment Ber­múdez de Cas­tro’s con­tri­bu­tions were no­tice­able. “No mat­ter what the con­di­tions were, there was an abun­dance of smiles, and that has an im­pact on the speed,” he says. “We saw a lot of down­wind and reach­ing, and he was solid on the wheel. He al­ways had the po­lar per­cent­age with triple dig­its.” —Dave Reed

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