Young and hungry, Spain has blasted into Season 4 with purpose. Four events down, the team currently sits third in the overall championship leaderboard, tied on 29 points with Emirates Great Britain in second.
Spain’s stunning early season start has been a marked change from its Season 3 performance, which saw the team finish last, and included a painful crew reshuffle mid-season. Driver Diego Botin took over the helm towards the end of Season 3 in Australia and, despite leading the charge since, even he’s been caught off guard by Spain’s change in fortunes.
As Botin looks ahead to his first home event as driver, he remains steadfastly and doggedly realistic. Already, he says, 30% of the season has gone and although the first four events have gone ‘super well’, he admits ‘we didn’t expect this beginning to the season’. While the team ‘feel like we got the most out of those events’, Botin says they have been working ‘hard to close the margin' to the top teams and ‘consolidate ourselves in the top half of the fleet’.
Botin admits there are still gaps in the team’s performance ability - specifically in ‘windy or wavy conditions’. This was clearly demonstrated at last month’s ROCKWOOL Italy Sail Grand Prix, where the team struggled in day one’s high wind conditions but excelled in the light airs of day two to finish 6th overall.
It was Spain’s worst result of the season so far, but still better than their Season 3 highlight - finishing 7th. “We know that the more experienced teams have more margin in the high winds, but we are working super hard to cut that margin as soon as possible,” he says. In-between events, the team has worked hard on ‘many takeaways from Taranto’. “I think we are going to get better in those conditions very quickly’, he says.
Spain will have the opportunity to put their learnings into practice at this weekend’s home event in Cadiz. It is, Botin says, the venue ‘where you’re most likely to get big waves on the entire Season 4 circuit’. But, he admits, ‘it can be full of surprises, so you need to be ready for anything’.
Other teams may target particular finishing positions, but Botin won’t be drawn on specifics. While ‘making a podium in front of a home crowd would be epic’, he says ‘it’s a very hard thing to do’. It’s not about finishing in ‘a specific position’, he argues, but more about ‘how we sail, how we apply our learnings and that feeling of being better which will result in better results throughout the season - it’s about that, not a position’.
Botin’s determination to remain realistic, to refuse to set specific targets and feel crestfallen when they aren’t met is, he says, key to the entire ‘mindset of the team’. “We are kind of a new team, we have less experience than the others and these are delicate things,” he explains. “If you think you’re too good, too early when you’re not, it can destroy your mindset and results - it’s super important to keep it real.”
The F50 fleet will reconvene for the Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía-Cádiz on October 14-15.