One of Spain’s leading sailors, Javier de la Plaza, has been called up by Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) to fill an important gap in their Volvo Ocean Race crew.
After Frenchman Laurent Pagès was forced out through injury, Dirk de Ridder (NED) stepped in for Leg 5, which the Dutch boat completed on Sunday in fourth place behind winners, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR).
However, De Ridder has explained that he has existing commitments outside the race and cannot continue.
De la Plaza should make the perfect replacement, according to skipper Bekking.
“We knew in advance that Dirk de Ridder had other commitments and could only sail with us on one leg,” he said.
“Javier is an excellent replacement. I know him from my time with Telefónica. He’s the best genoa trimmer in Europe and an excellent helmsman.”
The Spaniard sailed for Telefónica Black in the 2008-09 edition – Bekking was skipper of Telefónica Blue – and has an enviable competitive record.
In 2000, he was world champion in the 49er – a two-man dinghy that is a favourite of Volvo Ocean Race skippers such as MAPFRE’S Iker Martínez and Team Vestas Wind’s Chris Nicholson.
In the same class, he won silver and bronze at the European Championships in 1999 and 2001.
He took fourth place in the 49er class at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He also recorded many victories in the eight-metre J/80 keelboat culminating in gold at the 2007 and 2010 world Championships.
Last year, De la Plaza was mostly active in the Melges 32 and TP52 one-design classes.
“When I was asked to sail on Telefónica Black in 2008, it was my biggest dream come true. Apart from the America’s Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race is the pinnacle of sailing,” said De la Plaza.
“Every top sailor has to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race at least once in his lifetime. I’m specialised in trimming, but I still love to drive a boat. I’m going to try to achieve a good result with the team.”
Volvo Ocean Race latest standings (after Leg 5, lowest points wins, in-port race series separate ties):
1) Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 9 pts,
2) Dongfeng Race Team (China) 16,
3) Team Brunel (Netherlands) 18,
4) MAPFRE (Spain) 18,
5) Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.) 19,
6) Team SCA (Sweden) 29,
7) Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) 36.
*Image credit: Anton Paz/Telefonica Black/Volvo Ocean Race