For Spain’s Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin, the only mixed crew in the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race, the last fortnight of racing has provided some valuable experience prior to competing in this autumn’s Barcelona World Race.
Both Corbella and Marin are students of the FNOB, the Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing, which facilitates shorthanded offshore racing in Spain. They originally hooked Corbella up with her sponsor, hearing aid manufacturer GAES. After they both sailed the last Barcelona World Race on separate boats, for this year’s doublehanded non-stop round the world race Corbella has teamed up with fellow FNOB sailor Gerard Marin for her latest campaign. In this, the duo are raising their game, sailing Loick Peyron’s former Gitana 80 IMOCA 60, which most recently French solo sailing legend Jean le Cam raced to fifth place in the last Vendée Globe.
Given that the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race was Corbella and Marin’s first aboard their new and complex boat, and accepting that it is yet to be put through a full race refit (as it will be come December, for the round the world race) they put in a formidable performance on the race across the Atlantic.
Realising they were on the backfoot performance-wise, often Corbella and Marin were forced to take different tactics to the newer faster boats. Occasionally this paid off – as was the case early on in the race, when their southerly route away from New York gave them the lead for most of a day. However there were other times when it didn’t, such as when they gybed north several hours earlier than the rest of the fleet on the approach to the Azores.
On another occasion they entered the Mediterranean and unwisely chose to tack north towards a windless Andalucia shore.GAES arrived in Barcelona at 13:53:45 UTC today after a race time of 14 days 21 hours 43 minutes and 45 seconds, just under 19 hours behind Hugo Boss.
“It has been a bit hard, with very variable conditions: lots of wind and no wind… very difficult,” commented Corbella upon her arrival. “Finishing was a bit complicated with light wind, it seemed we were never going to get here, but we are happy with the job we have done. The highlight was the start in New York: we started well and the venue was amazing, a unique experience, I don’t know if we will ever repeat.”
As a training exercise both crew said they had learned a considerable amount. Corbella: “We had good moments in the Atlantic with good waves that we had not experienced while training.” Marin: “It’s been good for us, to test the boat and gain conclusions in full blown race conditions against good rivals. Those things you don’t get training on your own.
We’ve got to know the boat better. Plus we’ve never raced at this rhythm before - it was very, very intense the whole time. There’s lots we’ve learned and we’ve identified things that we need to improve before the Barcelona World Race.”
However some of these things Marin said he also enjoyed the most about the race, particularly mid-Atlantic after they’d passed the ice box. “The fleet was very close, there was lots of wind and we were sailing downwind under A2.”
While they took risky options during the race, Corbella admitted that when they didn’t pan out, it was often due to their lack of experience with meteorology. “We made tactical errors usually because of the meteorology. We were both sure we were doing the right thing, but we think it was an error. But we are not sure, which just proves all the more why we need to learn more about the weather!”
GAES’ was the only mixed crew in the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race. Having previously sailed doublehanded with female crew, how does it compare racing with a male one? “The difference is that the boat smells better with another girl!”said Corbella. “Seriously I think there is no difference – the difference is more because it is a different person. Obviously Gerard is stronger than a girl, and that is helpful in certain moments, but it is not something that is that important.”
As to their first things they would like to do, now they are on terra firm. Corbella said she was looking forward to a proper shower, after a fortnight of only using a bucket and to seeing her friends, family and dog.” Marin admits that it has been two months since he’s seen his girlfriend, who is pregnant. “I can’t wait to see her.”