ALICANTE, Spain, December 19 – Iker Martínez (ESP) is stepping down for the next leg as skipper of MAPFRE in the Volvo Ocean Race to concentrate on a pre-arranged commitment to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
His best friend and long-time sailing partner, Xabi Fernández (ESP), is taking the helm of the Spanish boat for Leg 3, from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China, in Martínez’s temporary absence.
The pair are joint gold and silver Olympic medallists as well as joint ISAF Sailors of the Year in 2011.
Martínez explained: “I have to go and focus on this (Olympic) project now. When we started the Volvo Ocean Race, 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.”
Martínez will now leave Abu Dhabi, where he and MAPFRE finished fourth in Leg 2 from Cape Town earlier this month, and head for Miami where he will train and compete in Nacra 17 with Marina Lopez, his partner on this Olympic class catamaran.
Another Olympic silver medallist, Rafael Trujillo (ESP), will sail the leg with Fernández and the rest of the crew.
Fernández is confident MAPFRE can continue their progress in the Volvo Ocean Race after finishing a disappointing seventh in the opening leg from Alicante to Cape Town.
“Being skipper represents more responsibilities than I usually have because you’re ultimately the one who is in charge,” he said.
“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’re organised this transition together,” added Martínez. “We used the second leg to tackle this in the best possible way. I’m sure Xabi will do very well.”
The fleet departs Abu Dhabi for Sanya on January 3.
MAPFRE crew list for Leg 3
Xabi Fernández (ESP), skipper
Jean-Luc Nélias (FRA), navigator
André Fonseca (BRA), watch captain
Robert Greenhalgh (UK), watch captain
Rafael Trujillo (ESP), trimmer/helmsman
Anthony Marchand (FRA), trimmer/helmsman
Carlos Hernández (ESP), trimmer/bowman
Antonio “ñeti” Cuervas-Mons (ESP), bowman
Francisco Vignale (ARG), Onboard Reporter