«I am a sailor, I am not an athlete. In the sea the head counts more, understanding the shape of the wave, reading the cloud that is coming. “You don’t learn that in the gym, you learn that by sailing.”
And so Alex Pella He has been sailing all his life. She learned to hoist a sail sooner than to walk and at 51 years old she continues every week, practically every day, dancing to the rhythm that the sea proposes to her. Theirs are not the Olympic Games or the Copa América, speed competitions, going around the same bay, theirs are the crossings. And in that specialty, resistance, he has achieved almost everything. In 2017 he set a new record for eastward circumnavigation of the world, the so-called Jules Verne Trophy: 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds. Since then eight teams with the best sailors and the fastest boats in the world have tried to beat him and have not succeeded. «And in recent years I have asked myself: What do I do now? I can try to lower my record, but it is very, very difficult. In the end I came to the conclusion that it is better that I try it the other way,” he explains in conversation with EL MUNDO from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where he is preparing his next challenge. A challenge that has nothing to do with all the previous ones; This one has invented it.
«The idea is to go around backwards, against the wind and the tides. It’s much more difficult, but it has more history. It’s how he did it Juan Sebastian Elcano in the 16th century when he made the first trip around the world, but until now no one has done it on that route as a sporting challenge. The objective is to establish a new Trophy, which will be called the Elcano Trophy, and if possible leave a first record of about 100 days.
At the beginning of 2025, Pella will leave with the Frenchman Lalou Roucayrol and the spanish Alejandro Cantero, Alberto Muñoz y Manuel Maqueda towards Cape Horn, they will cross the Torres Strait that separates Australia and New Guinea, reach the Cape of Good Hope and sail up the Atlantic back home. «The most difficult will be Cape Horn, in fact the entire stretch between Punta del Este, in Uruguay, and Valparaíso, in Chile. There are 4,000 miles in which things can get very complicated. The storms spin and push you, push you. Two years ago I went to investigate, I spent three days anchoring and in the end I ended up on the rocks. They had to rescue me with a tugboat and I was almost repatriated,” says Pella, who has been preparing her project for some time. From the boat, the Maxicat Victoria, a rehabilitated multihull that was abandoned for years in Qatar, to the training challenges. Before embarking on a trip around the world, Pella and his team will seek the record for traveling around Spain, from Bilbao to Barcelona in less than a week. Then they will try a demanding crossing across the Atlantic.
With the support of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sports of the Government of Andalusia, co-financed with European Funds, and sponsors such as Festina, Pella is already reviewing all the details of his next trip around the world. Even the most routine matters. «We will take rotating shifts to sleep and I will take care of eating. Freeze-dried food is very convenient, it is useful in some situations, but I need to eat. Eat really. We have expanded the kitchen and every day I will make a pot for everyone with pasta, rice, something delicious, something powerful. That gives you a scary psychological punch. When I competed in the Rum Route everyone went with freeze-dried foods and I took my grandmother’s sofrito. When you are in the middle of the sea, without connection to land, eating well gives you a lot of advantage,” says the skipper who does not achieve the fame of an Olympic sailing medalist, but is known by all sailors in the world.