Between two surgical operations, José Guillerme Caldas, the Angolan-Brazilian sailor, took the time to confide in the Globe40 teams. He takes an emotional look back at his childhood in Angola, his new life in Brazil where he has become a renowned interventional neuroradiologist and looks ahead to his round the world race aboard his new Class40…

José, you were born in Angola, a country you had to flee when you were young at the time of the civil war. How do you feel about growing up in such difficult conditions under constant threat? What are your earliest memories of those years?

It was a special time: as soon as we left the house, we were searched in our entirety several times a day. It was total war, but in the end, we were used to living with that risk. I wasn’t particularly afraid. I was a bit young and carefree, I used to go to the beach on my motorbike and I joined the local sailing club.

At the age of 15, your parents couldn’t stand living with fear and the constant threat, so they decided to leave Angola for Brazil. How did you manage to rebuild your life, knowing that part of your family was still in Angola?

It was very hard to leave Angola. I was happy there despite the civil war, it was as if something had been taken away from me even though I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Coming to Brazil was a very difficult time in our lives. I arrived in Brazil with my mother and my two beautiful sisters. My father and two brothers stayed behind in Angola. As soon as I arrived, my mother enrolled me at university and I took refuge in work and study. Meeting other young people my age helped me to structure myself. I didn’t have a normal youth or an easy life, but it helped me to become the man I am today. When I want something, I very often achieve it. I’m following through on my goals, and the next one is to be at the start of the Globe40!

Despite your difficult childhood, you managed to fulfil your dream of becoming a doctor and were even the first in Brazil to work in neuroradiology.

 Yes, I studied in Vittoria in the north of Brazil and after finishing my studies I came to Sao Paulo to specialise in neuroradiology, with a period of 3 years in Paris.

In fact, you’re very well known, as I believe you even treat President Lula’s wife…?

Yes, it’s true that I treated his ex-wife. That’s a good anecdote… I also treat several politicians, judges, actors and actresses… I now work in the largest public hospital in South America and I’m director of radiology at the largest private hospital in Sao Paulo. I also teach at the University of Sao Paulo, because it’s important for me to pass on my knowledge to the younger generation.

Sailing has always been a way for you to get away from it all. How did you discover this sport?

I started sailing with my older brother at the age of 9 in Angola. In Brazil, I sailed on boats loaned by the club in exchange for sailing lessons given to the children. I sailed regularly until my 3rd year of medicine. Unfortunately, after that I didn’t have the time to combine the two, so I had to stop sailing for a long time.

Right up to the moment when you started ocean racing… What were your first racing experiences?

I took up sailing again when I was 39… long years without sailing when I was really focused on work. I really needed a break, so I bought a 30-footer and a few years later I returned to Angola! 30 years later to be exact. It was my first solo transatlantic race and arriving by boat on the island of Mussulo was a highlight. It was here that I sailed for the first time and learnt to sail. That’s why I’ve been calling my boats Mussulo ever since I had to flee Angola. That solo crossing was the turning point. It gave me a taste for the offshore sailing.

With more than 20 transatlantic crossings, my last project was with the Class40 n°107 with which I took part in numerous races: Cape 2 Rio which I won, Transat Jacques Vabre, Atlantic Cup, RORC Caribbean 60, Class40 World Championship…

Brazil is more of a footballing country. What is the place of ocean racing in South America and particularly in Brazil?

Yes, unfortunately ocean racing is not very well developed in Brazil. On the other hand, there is a real breeding ground in light sailing. To give you a concrete example, sailing is the discipline with the greatest potential for Olympic medals for Brazil.

Sailing is an expensive sport and is reserved for the elite. Few Brazilians actually go sailing, and those that do tend more towards cruising.

The longest race in Brazil is the REFENO, from Recife to Fernando de Noronha, and is only 300 miles long.

After several years with the n°107, you acquired the Class40 n°151, a high-performance boat which put in some great performances in the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Route du Rhum? Have you sailed her before? What are your first impressions?

Class40 n°107 is a really great boat, and I’ve really enjoyed sailing her for several years. I bought the Class40 n°151 because I really wanted a boat with better performance with a view to the Globe40. When the opportunity of the 151 presented itself to me, I didn’t hesitate. I sailed from Vigo to La Coruña on board and I could feel the difference in performance straight away. I’m very happy with the boat. She’s one of the best boats of her generation.

You’ve signed up for the 2nd edition of the Globe40. How did you come up with the idea of taking part in this round-the-world race?

I followed the first edition of the Globe40 with interest and it’s a race that’s made for me! I’ve already done several transatlantic races, and now I want to discover something new. It’s the perfect project for the end of my career.

How far have you got in preparing this project? Is it your ambition to create a 100% Brazilian crew?

The boat is in great condition. I’m going to leave her in winter storage this winter and come back next spring to train on the boat. The project will be 100% Brazilian with a talented co-skipper. I’m trying to take advantage of all the opportunities here in Brazil to sail. There’s an old Class40 in Brazil and we’re going to train here aboard that boat when I can’t come to Europe.

What are your goals and ambitions for the round the world voyage?

With Class40 n°151, I have a real performance objective. Naturally, we can be more hopeful. The objective for the moment is to be ready. I’m in the process of building a team around me to put all the chances on my side and hope to have a great race.

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