Barcelona World Race - Thomson's substitute skipper announced

Sub skipper Wouter Verbraak (NED) and Andy Meiklejohn (NZL) - Hugo Boss
Barcelona World Race team Hugo Boss have announced the temporary skipper substitute for Alex Thomson - Wouter Verbraak (NED).

Following the emergency appendectomy of skipper Alex Thomson The Hugo Boss Sailing Team have been given permission to start the Barcelona World Race with a temporary replacement co-skipper as partner to Andy Meiklejohn (NZL).

The temporary substitute will be professional navigator and meteor routing expert Wouter Verbraak (NED), who has worked with the team for many months helping in the preparation of Hugo Boss, particularly with the navigation systems and helping the duo with their weather studies.

Vebraak, known in crewed racing as ‘Wouter the Router’ has considerable experience in weather routing for IMOCA Open 60 teams has raced in crews with Meiklejohn, and competed in the crew of the IMOCA Open Estrella Damm on the last Istanbul Europa Race, but has very few actual hours sailing on the Juan Kouyoumdjian designed Hugo Boss.

The decision to allow the replacement co-skipper to form a temporary crew with Meikeljohn was given the unanimous backing of the other competing skippers.

Wouter Verbraak (NED): 'I have very little experience physically sailing on the boat, but I’ve been involved with Alex Thomson racing and Alex for a long time because we’ve been working together on weather and routing strategies. So I’ve been always into the systems and know the specifics of the boat so you know we’ve had a good run through months ago.'

But actual hours on the boat?
'Very few.'

You’re qualified as a replacement skipper having done the Volvo race ?
'Yes, correct.'

How are you going to operate for the first few hours or days?
'One of the choices for me as a substitute skipper was that I have a very complimentary set of skills to Andy, and Alex, so we’re ready and I think the key o the race, which is endurance, will be preparation. All those things are still in place. I’m amazed by the preparation of all the team and how well organized the boat is, so I’m pretty confident.'

Are you excited about it?
'It’s a fantastic boat to sail and I’ve worked a lot in the Open 60 class before. I did the Round Europe Race last year and I was involved from a router’s point of view for almost 10 years with this class. So I know a lot about the developments, sail developments, the way to sail these boats, I’ve always had a lot of interaction with the guys on the boats, so I have a considerable knowledge in that way.'

Will you be keen to get off when the time comes for Alex to take over?
'Yes and no. I haven’t prepared fully to do a round the world race, so with my family it will be good to just do these 10-14 days and be done with it. But really the focus is to do a good job.'

Do you feel confident you could do a good job?
'Obviously the forecast is looking favourable for me to get into it all. There’s not a 40 knot front coming through in the first two nights so we have some time to get into the system, and there’s some difficult decisions to be made in the first 24 hours to 4 days, but these are mainly tactical.

Andy Meiklejohn (NZL):

How are you feeling?
'To be honest I’m feeling relieved now it’s official, we’ve got the confirmation from the race committee. The waiting’s been really hard, so many decisions to be made and it’s easy to listen to speculation.'

Presumably there’s a time you were thinking you wouldn’t go?
'Yes, that was realistic and that was one of the possible options. Nobody wanted that, and fortunately everybody’s worked together to find a suitable solution'

How confident are you of sailing the boat at something close to potential?
'Oh definitely we can push the boat to its potential, but there is the lack of knowledge on the boat – you know Alex’s experience on the boat is being replaced by Wouter, who’s an incredibly experienced sailor but not experienced on this boat. We’re going to be selective with our times when we sail to the maximum.'

What will be your key strategies for the first part of the race?
'The key strategies will be to get each other into a routine, it’s going to be a little different because I know the boat so I’m going to have to be around a lot more for everything. So were going to split the roles a little bit differently, you know Wouter will do a lot just of navigation, I’ll do a lot more of just sailing, whereas with Alex we’d share it more. So the focus is just going to be to get this routine going and get Wouter more confident with the boat. And not panic. He’s a fantastic navigator, a Volvo navigator and America’s Cup navigator so we’re not losing anything in the technical side, it’s just us developing a routine and keeping the boat in one piece.'

Wouter Fact File
:Date of birth: 16th November 1975
Place of birth: Eindhoven
Lives: Norway
Sailing: Over 10 years experience
2009 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) as Navigator of ‘Delta Lloyd’
2009 first in the Halifax Ocean Race as Navigator of ‘Rambler’
2009 first in Cape Town – Bahia as Navigator of ‘Rambler’
2009 third in Istanbul Europa Race as Navigator of IMOCA 60 ‘Estrella Damm’
2008 Volvo Ocean Race as Navigator of ‘Team Russia’
2008 Buenos Aires as Navigator of ‘Rambler’
2007 first in Middle Sea Race as Navigator of ‘Rambler’
2006 first in the Maxi Worlds as Navigator of ‘Alpha Romeo’
2005 first in the Transat Jacques Vabre, weather routing the IMOCA 60 ‘Virbac, Sill’ ORMA 60 ‘Geant’
2000 Line honours Sydney to Hobart

Wouter Verbraak is a highly experienced offshore racer, having raced the VOR several times, as well as many other prestigious races such as: The Oryx Quest, The Middle Sea Race, Cape Town to Bahia Race and The Sydney to Hobart. He has advised sailors on strategy and weather in many ‘grand prix’ races such as: The Vendee Globe, The Route du Rhum, The Jaques Vabre and The Olympics. Having worked with the IMOCA class for eight years he has gained a strong understanding of the technical aspects, and coupled with his knowledge as a leading navigator and educated meteorologist, he is an impressive substitute skipper for the 2010 double handed Barcelona World Race. After the Barcelona World Race his next ambition is to mount his own IMOCA 60 campaign

• Competed in America’s Cup (K-Challenge in the 32nd AC)
• Other events: Oryx Quest, Tour de France à la Voile, won the Admirals Cup, TP52 MedCup, Middle Sea Race, Cape Town to Bahia Race and the Sydney to Hobart, co-skippered the Elanders and Avant boats in the Volvo Baltic Race.
• Has advised sailors on strategy and weather in the Vendée, Route du Rhum, Transat Jaques Vabre and the Olympics.

• Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
First three legs on board on Team Russia (who retired due to lack of funds). Then signed Delta Lloyd, but when Delta Lloyd withdrew from leg 5 of the race due to damage, he stepped in to replace Ian Moore as navigator on the Irish entry Green Dragon, before rejoining Delta Lloyd.

Previously navigator for Djuice Dragons in 2001/02.

• Open 60 experience includes sailing with Spanish sailor Guillermo Altadill on Estrella Damm in the 2009 Istanbul Round Europe Race (3rd overall)

• Maxi sailor (Cape Town – Salvador Race on Rambler)