Joan Vila, considered one of the best navigators in the world, will tackle the Volvo Ocean Race again in 2017-18 as part of MAPFRE.
The Spanish team, skippered by Olympic Champion Xabi Fernández, announced today that Vila will join the crew as navigator – responsible for ensuring the consistent best positioning of the boat to take maximum advantage of wind and current, getting it from point to point as fast as possible.
This is the best crewed race that any offshore sailor can take part in.Joan Vila
One of the most decorated sailors on the planet, Vila became the first Spanish sailor ever to win the Volvo Ocean Race as part of Illbruck Challege back in 2001-02. He also recently returned from the America's Cup in Bermuda, the competition which has has won three times and competed in more than any other Spaniard – and has previously competed in the Olympic Games. The next edition will mark his fifth appearance in the Volvo Ocean Race.
“This is the best crewed race that any offshore sailor can take part in, so you always keep an eye on it,” Vila admitted from the team base in Sanxenxo, Spain.
“Unfortunately in the last few years I haven’t had the chance to take part, as it coincided with other projects, but I always wanted to. The opportunity has appeared for me again now, and with a team like MAPFRE,” he added.
Vila’s skills as navigator are highly sought-after, and he admits that he'd had the chance to be on the start line wearing a different shirt, but turned it down.
“I had conversations with another team as well as this one, but when I spoke to Xabi and saw the people involved in the team, I saw the chance to be part of an excellent crew, and didn’t hesitate in choosing MAPFRE.”
Vila hasn't competed with a Spanish team since 2003 when he took part in the Admiral’s Cup – and if he can help MAPFRE to victory in 2017-18, they will become the first Spanish team in history to win the toughest test of a team in professional sport.
Joan Vila brings an undeniable amount of experience from other competitions, but a lot has changed in the Volvo Ocean Race since he last took part in 2001-02 with German team Illbruck, and before that with Fortuna Extra Lights, Galicia-Pescanova and Chessie Racing.
When I spoke to Xabi and saw the people involved in the team, I saw the chance to be part of an excellent crew, and didn’t hesitate in choosing MAPFRE.Joan Vila
Following his first sail in Sanxenxo, Vila commented on the One Design Volvo Ocean 65 boat: “what I noticed most was how well geared everything is, and how well it all works.”
The announcement comes hot on the heels of MAPFRE's signing of another America's Cup champion, Kiwi Blair Tuke – and team CEO Pedro Campos expressed his delight at the way the squad is coming together.
“It's a pleasure and a great source of pride for MAPFRE to announce the signing of Joan Vila, who, in my opinion, is the best navigator in the world. I have known Joan for many years, and it has always been my dream to have him on our team. Finally that dream has come true. I want to thank him for his trust in us, for joining MAPFRE, and I am sure he will help us achieve a great deal of success.”
Over the next few weeks, as the team continues their preparation in Galicia, further incorporations will be announced.