Barcelona World Race Primer

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One of sailing’s most extreme challenges is set to start later this month. Now it’s third edition, the Barcelona World Race is the first and only double-handed, non-stop, round the world regatta.

barcelona world race

photo: gilles martin-raget / barcelona world race

It’s an ocean adventure that puts human limits to the test. Although external assistance is permitted, there are strict penalty regulations.

barcelona world race course

The boats cover some 23,000 nautical miles in a circumnavigation from Barcelona to Barcelona, putting the capes of Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia) and Horn (Chile) to port (their left) and the Antarctic to starboard (their right). During the three months of racing the skippers make their way through 12 climate zones and cross 3 oceans, as well as sailing in the Mediterranean Sea.


The crews race on IMOCA 60 yachts, 18 meters in length. Their masts can reach up to a maximum of 29 meters, as high as a building with ten floors.

cheminees poujoulat barcelona world race

cheminees poujoulat, photo by th. martinez / sea & co. / barcelona world race

The race starts New Year’s Eve and is forecasted to finish the end of March 2015.

barcelona world race skippers

skippers of the 2014/15 barcelona world race, photo: gilles martin-raget / barcelona world race

Facing some of the most dangerous conditions as they race around the globe are eight teams: Cheminées Poujoulat, Swiss Bernard Stamm and Frenchman Jean Le Cam together form one of the most experienced crews in the Barcelona World Race 2014/15; GAES Centros Auditivos, Spaniards Anna Corbella and Gerard Marín, are one of the youngest crews in the regatta, however this is not their first Barcelona World Race entry. After racing on different boats in the last edition, the pair began sailing together; Hugo Boss, the only team to take part in all three editions of the Barcelona World Race with Alex Thomson back at the helm after a medical emergency had him miss the last race, sailing with Spaniard Pepe Ribes one of Spain’s most experienced offshore sailorsNeutrogena, ocean sailor Guillermo Altadill in for his tenth round the world regatta and joining him is Chile’s José Muñoz, South America’s first ever IMOCA Class competitor; One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton, Spanish skippers Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa have progressed from the Mini Class to the challenge of IMOCA where they will also collaborate on numerous oceanographic research projects as they sail round the world; Renault Captur, This being German skipper Jörg Riechers first round the world regatta though he was the first German to win a Transatlantic race and the Class Mini and Class 40 Circuits. Jörg is joining forces with Sébastien Audigane, who is one of the most famous ocean record holders; among his many achievements is a 24 Speed Sailing Record in 2009 (908.2 miles) on the multihull Banque Populaire V, which still stands, and the Jules Verne Trophy in 2005 on Orange II (50d 16h 20m and 4s); Spirit of Hungary, Hungarian Nandor Fa, faces his fourth around the world regatta in the Barcelona World Race 2014/2015 where he will be sailing a boat he designed himself. Fa is joined by young Kiwi Conrad Colman, the winner of the 2011-12 Global Ocean Race; We Are Water, Barcelona brothers Bruno and Willy Garcia are making their first attempt at sailing around the world as a duo, non-stop and without assistance.

alex tomson

alex thomson photo: gilles martin-raget / barcelona world race

One of the best known skippers in the race is Alex Thomson of Hugo Boss. Even to those who don’t follow the IMOCA may know him for his amazing videos, the Mast Walk Video and Keel Walk Video.

alex tomson's mast walk on hugo boss

hugo boss, photo: mark lloyd / barcelona world race

What some may not know is he is the youngest skipper ever to win a round the world race. It was 15 years ago on the Clipper Round the World Race.

It’s always interesting to learn about high profile skippers, how they that got their start and what drives them then and now. Alex answers it all in the following Clipper Race 360 Magazine article.

By Clipper Round the World Race

Alex Thomson is still the youngest ever skipper to win the Clipper Race at the age of 25 in the 1998-99 edition. He tells 360 about how an expedition to Greenland with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston led to the progression of his goals and to his position as one of Britain’s best-known sailors.

My earliest memory of ambition is wanting to be a search and rescue pilot like my dad. My ambition today aged 39 is to win the Vendee Globe, the single handed non-stop around the world race, and to me the most grueling sporting challenge that exists. The transition of goals is a natural progression of growing up and exploring possibilities in life.

It wasn’t until Sir Robin Knox-Johnston gave me the opportunity to sail a boat around the world in the Clipper Race, which my team and I won, that I even realized the path of professional sailing was an option to me.

I stumbled at the first hurdle of my original ambition, when I discovered my eyesight wasn’t good enough to become a search and rescue pilot. It was a situation that, at the time, no amount of determination could remedy. However, I had found a new passion in windsurfing and have never lived more than three miles from the sea.

I met Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1997 when I was working for the Clipper Race as a bosun.  He asked me if I would like to be his first mate on an expedition to Greenland.  I said I would love to, but wanted to stay in the UK and train the crew for the Clipper 1998-99 Race in which I wanted to be a skipper.

I was 23 at the time and I asked Sir Robin straight if he thought I was too young to be a skipper.  He said he did not know, but if I came to Greenland with him he would tell me.

I went and it was the best adventure I have ever and am ever likely to have.  Sailing with one of – if not the world’s best seaman – was an amazing experience and with Sir Robin as my mentor, I could hardly fail.  That being said, it was a big risk for Sir Robin giving me a job because any screw up on my part would have been directed at him for giving a young man such responsibilities.

In the Clipper 1998-99 Race, I skippered the boat Ariel at the age of 25 and won. It is a record I still hold as the youngest skipper to win an around the world race. For many, the Clipper Race is a life-changing event, and I was no exception. It was the first moment I began to think that I was perhaps good at sailing, and the first time I had thought there could be a possibility I could turn it into my career.

hugo boss

hugo boss, photo: mark lloyd / barcelona world race

Essentially the rest is now history – but a history that is still being written. I am now into my tenth year of sponsorship with Hugo Boss, which is one of the most long-standing and successful sponsorships in sailing.

alex thomson

alex thomson, photo: mark lloyd / alex tomson racing

I finished third in the Vendee Globe earlier this year, smashing the British record for the event and sailing my boat competitively against newer generation boats. I am more determined than ever to be on that starting line in 2016 and stand on the top of the podium at the end. That is my ambition now.

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