The favourite for the Barcelona World Race insists he is not feeling under pressure


Tomorrow, Vincent Riou leaves on his second round the world race as the clear favourite in the Barcelona World Race. Riou (pictured, on the left) is a calm man who says no more than he needs to, and maybe he expends no surplus emotion, so I believe him when he says he is not nervous.

His is a formidable team. Riou won the Vendée Globe three years ago. His co-skipper Seb Josse is a top Open 60 sailor in his own right and skippered ABN AMRO Two in the Volvo Ocean Race. Between them they have an armoury of skills, chief among these a talent for weather analysis. Jean-Yves Bernot, one of the world’s finest weather routers, reportedly pronounced after the last Vendée that Riou and Josse were the only two sailors who had never put a foot wrong.

Then there is the boat, the new Farr-designed PRB. After breaking his wingmast last year, Riou has sailed 10,000 miles. He and Josse have gone out and punched sea miles in the boat five days a week since February. They are satisfied that everything is battle-ready.

Yet when I ask Riou if he agrees that all the boats here will have some kind of serious problem during the race, Riou answers: “Yes, I think so. Not because the [new] boats are more powerful but because they are lighter.” The problems, he thinks, are most likely to stem from “the mast, sails and the rudder systems”. I note that he does not mention keels.

The Barcelona World Race is set up to accommodate breakages, and ensure that the maximum number of boats can finish back here in February or March. Teams are allowed to make pitstops to fix things, with a variety of time penalties, and subject to race jury agreement shore crew can work on the boat and spare parts can be brought aboard.

While that’s quite different from the Vendée Globe, the Barcelona World Race is ruled by the same simple imperative. In all likelihood the winner will still be the team – or rather the project – that made the least mistakes.

Photo by Benoit Stichelbaut