Or should we be asking the pairs of skippers 'who will fight?' on the Barcelona World Race?


‘Who will crack?’ asks the video for the two-handed Barcelona World Race. It’s an interesting idea but I doubt anyone will: most of the 18 skippers have seen it before – after all, they have 36 circumnavigations between them.

Who will fight? Now that might be a more realistic question. There are going to be huge stresses on this race, and maybe the biggest will be over the question of how hard to race, how many compromises to make, what risks to take to go fast and when to take them. And when things get really messy, who takes command, who gets the final say?

I put this question to Jonathan McKee (pictured, on the right), the quiet American who is setting out on his first round the world race and is said to have had an interesting time already with his hot-headed sailing partner, Spaniard Guillermo Altadill. McKee is modest, measured, polite; Altadill is the more experienced offshore but is proud and prone to fits of temper.

These teams need to be brothers in arms, but what happens one is pumped up and the other scared?

“I think it will be an issue on all the boats, for sure,” admits McKee. “There will be a time when one guy is feeling strong and confident and the other is not strong or confident at all.

“In some ways you’ve got to back off from being super-competitive all the time because you can’t keep it up. And you don’t know what the key turning points of the race are going to be, so I find it helpful to have a relaxed attitude.”

When I ask him about who will take the important decisions he says that on Estrella Damm “we break it into a standard watch system and whoever’s on watch makes that call. The big decisions we will make together or according to our area of expertise.”

McKee sees it as his job to portray what happens on board as honestly as possible. But ask him if he’ll be honest about everything and he colours slightly. “No,” he says. “Not everything.”

Photo by Carlos Pich/Roladas