Spanish ocean racer Alex Pella and a four person crew aboard the revamped 33-metre (109.1-foot) maxi catamaran Victoria have set off from Bilbao on a record attempt for the Vuelta a España – a 1,500-nautical mile passage around Spain to Barcelona.
The monster catamaran – designed by Gilles Ollier custom-built by the Multiplast yard in Vannes, France – was launched in 1999 and used by New Zealand yachtsman Grant Dalton to win The Race – the 2000 non-stop around-the-world challenge for giant multihulls.
The following year the boat was re-named Maiden 2 for British yachtswoman Tracey Edwards’ ill-fated Jules Verne Trophy fully-crewed non-stop around the world record attempt, which ended in a dismasting off the coast of Chile.
Racing alongside Pella are French multihull expert Lalou Roucayrol and two young Spanish sailors – Alejandro Cantero and Alberto Muñoz.
Pella’s team had been on standby in the northeastern port city of Bilbao waiting for the right weather before getting off to a flying start on yesterday after Victoria exited the city under the iconic Bizkaia suspension bridge just before 1830 and headed west out across the Bay of Biscay towards Cape Finisterre.
The Spanish record attempt is the first of several warm up passages for Pella and his crew as they prepare for another new challenge – the 2025 around-the-world Elcano Oceanic Trophy celebrating the first ever circumnavigation of the planet by the Spanish captain Juan Sebastian Elcano over 500 years ago in 1522.
The newly created Vuelta a España Trophy challenge can be sailed in either direction between Bilbao and Barcelona, with the perpetual annual trophy awarded to the fastest challenger in any calendar year.
The existing course record of 12 days and 13 hours was set by the López-Doriga brothers in 2006 aboard the yacht Arte y Naturaleza – a target time that Pella aspires to halve aboard Victoria.