Iker Martínez

UNDERSTANDING FAILURE

Going for the big lead and faltering isn’t failure to former Telefónica team skipper Iker Martínez. It’s fuel for the next big race.

They spent months at the top of the leaderboard and it was undone in hours after both rudders broke. But the lessons about pushing through challenges and learning from mistakes could put Martínez on top again in 2014-15.

Iker Martínez understands the necessity of failure. He has experienced it firsthand – and on a big stage. His Telefónica team was leading the pack week after week in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race thanks to decisive wins in the opening three legs. It was familiar territory for Martínez. He and long-time teammate Xabier Fernandez are two-time Olympic medalists and have won multiple world championships.

But the Groupama team was hot on their heels, and turned the race into a battle. Groupama was a mere seven points behind as the fleet set out across the Atlantic Ocean. Only three ports remained on the around-the-world journey.

Iker Martínez - Former Skipper, Telefónica team

“We thought that this was our chance and we wanted to take it. We all understand what happened. It was not the fault of someone. It was not the fault of a big thing that we did wrong. It was just racing – the Volvo Ocean Race. This is the sport.”

Shortly after setting out on Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, France, a North Atlantic storm generated powerful winds. Telefónica was traveling at a record pace, smashing the speed record that year, covering 564 nautical miles in 24 hours.

Just as quickly, Telefónica stopped. 

In the minutes after the rudder broke, the crew lost control and luffed. They brought up the broken rudder, and a crewmember in a harness fitted the spare from the outside. Telefónica was back in the race, gaining all the ground they had lost. And then disaster struck again.

“When the important decision to gybe toward Lorient arrived 350 miles out, we broke the rudder again on the same side,” Martínez said. “We lost control and we had a complicated situation.”

Telefónica was forced to slow down, sailing with one good rudder and one damaged one. The team finished fourth overall in the final standings. But, it was those experiences that helped shape the perspective of teammates Martínez and Fernandez, driving them to seek victory again onboard MAPFRE in 2014-15.

“What I hope we learned is that you have to keep pushing,” Martínez says. “You’re always going to see better things from other teams. You’ll always see things you’d like to do differently. But if you push hard, you normally end up finding your opportunity.” 

“We pushed as much as we could and we broke,” Martínez said. “That’s the Volvo Ocean Race. That’s the adventure.

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