Camper poised to pounce in the Volvo Ocean Race

Skipper Chris Nicholson and Navigator Will Oxley perched on the stack watching the leading boats from onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©
In the Volvo Ocean Race, the Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand crew will enter this weekend’s Etihad Airways In-Port Race and Leg 3 start only eight points off the overall lead. The team will be poised to pounce and snap up any opportunity to close the gap on the race leaders Team Telefonica, skippered by Spanish double Olympic medallist, Iker Martinez.

However Camper’s highly competitive skipper Chris Nicholson says he sees no advantage to being in second at this point in the race and believes the close finish to the first stage of leg 2 could easily have gone in Camper’s favour.

'I would much rather be in first’' he said. 'If you look at what happened in Leg 2 and the strong chance of it going the other way for us we can certainly take a bit of heart from what we achieved.'

Nicholson says his team continues to learn about their boat and will be making only subtlest of changes to the way they sail on the next leg to Sanya, China.

'We will make a couple of minor alterations to the sails but no big changes at this stage,' Nicholson said. 'The boat set up is almost totally locked in by the rule but for sure we will be making subtle changes to the way we 'mode' the boat.'

'We will be looking at when we trim sails out wide or in closer, when the dagger boards go up and down,' he explained. 'In fact every variable that we use to trim the boat may change in some small way.'

Camper and Telefónica were separated by less than 100 metres at times in the final days of the first stage of Leg 2 into the safe haven port.

'I would normally expect one boat to make the breakaway at some point on the leg,' Nicholson said. 'But the two of us just stuck like glue to each other for days.' Nicholson said his team had made huge strides in tuning their boat during Leg 2.

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, skippered by Chris Nicholson from Australia at the finish of leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Cape town, South Africa, to Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Photo Credit must read: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

'Perhaps the public might think we would be on to it more now at this stage of the race,' he commented. 'But the fact of the matter is that the new rules don’t let you line up with other boats before the race start so you have to gather this information on the fly once the race as has started.

'Of the important things to have happened in the race so far that opportunity to have had such close competition with Telefonica was really key,' he said.

'I am amazed how much we learned on Leg 2. We finished Leg 1 with almost zero extra knowledge of our competitors because we sailed almost the entire leg by ourselves. We feel like a much better team having gained this knowledge.'

Nicholson said he expected the team to keep on learning as the race progressed and that the overall approach the Camper campaign would allow them to quickly adapt to new ideas. 'We have the right culture in this team where we can look at things sensibly, at where we might have made mistakes or where perhaps our ideas weren’t correct and others may have got it right. That allows us to adapt pretty readily in those situations.

Nicholson said that with two legs of the race now completed, a pecking order of sorts was beginning to emerge but he expected Camper to continue to learn as the race went on. 'We have seen good and bad points of our team and others,' he said. 'There is some consistency in the teams – both good and bad.'

'The good thing about this race is that we go to different places with different conditions on almost every leg.'

'I honestly think we are improving very rapidly and going into Leg 3 I think we have an opportunity to learn as much again as we did in Leg 2.'

Volvo Ocean Race website