In the Volvo Ocean Race, the finish will soon be in sight for the heroic crew of Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand as their gruelling, and at times traumatic, nine-month odyssey across the globe draws to an end.
Battered and bruised, tired and weary, Chris Nicholson and his men have sailed more than 41,000 miles spanning six continents, and are now nearing their final destination: Galway, on the west coast of Ireland.
Notwithstanding a hammering in the brutal Southern Ocean in Leg 5 that forced the crew to sail an extra 2,000 miles for a pit stop in Chile to repair the boat’s damaged bow, a catalogue of injuries including a prolapsed disc for bowman Mike Pammenter that ruled him out of the last three legs, and the near collision with a whale in the Atlantic that could have been catastrophic, the team is still standing and more determined than ever to end the race on a high. A strong finish in Galway could see Camper finish second overall. A podium finish would be a remarkable achievement for the crew and bring just reward for a string of consistently strong leg finishes.
Sailing may not command the same amount of airtime and column inches as mainstream sports such as football and tennis, but it is impossible to ignore the sheer guts and steely determination of these men who push their bodies and minds to the absolute limits day after day, for over three quarters of a year. The old workplace maxim: ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps’, certainly applies to these gallant globetrotters.
Skipper Chris Nicholson is demanding one final big push from the team towards Galway as they look to secure a coveted podium place. 'I just look around at the guys and the whole thing is to leave nothing in the tank when we get to Galway,' said the Australian, a former Olympian. 'What I want to see is proud people leave the boat in Ireland.'
Helmsman Tony Rae, with 20 years of professional sailing under his belt that epitomises the buccaneering spirit of the round-the-world sailor, admitted his body was feeling it after nine months at sea and is looking forward to a hard-earned rest after the race.
'I’m pretty keen to have a little bit of time off and get my body back in shape again before I tackle any other projects,' he said. 'There’s always some little niggles, bumps and bruises, I’ve a sore back and arms, and what have you. It will be nice to get back home, I haven’t been to my house in over a year. But we are just focusing on this at the moment, and once we get to Galway and I get a few Guinesess under my belt, I’ll start thinking about the future a bit more.'