The Volvo Ocean Race crew aboard Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand are now looking forward to conditions that should better suit them on the long route to Sanya after a disappointing sprint stage from Abu Dhabi which saw the team off the podium for the first time.
Camper finished fifth in the 106 nautical mile sprint to Sharjah and while skipper Chris Nicholson has every reason to be confident about the second stage of Leg 3, which will deliver 80 percent of the points, he does still have a doubt about the way the boat performed on the longest reaching section of Saturday's race.
'It certainly wasn’t the result we were aiming for,' Nicholson said after the sprint was won by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. 'We need to go back to the drawing board and have a look over it.
'We made some changes to the boat and by our numbers we were going better than on the way down from Sharjah, but it still wasn’t enough to hang on to those guys.'
Nicholson said the Camper crew had tried every trick in their repertoire to match the pace of the boats, but to no avail.
'They were just a bit quicker,' Nicholson said. 'We were looking at them hard, looking at us hard, and we couldn’t see any differences in the set-ups as such but it may be they are a little quicker with hull shape.'
Camper will now have to quickly re-group and refocus on the second stage of Leg 3 which will start from a secret loading/unloading port after the fleet has been transferred by secure ship through waters renowned for their high risk of piracy.
Nicholson, a three-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran and Olympian, said the challenging next stage would pay dividends to the team who sailed smartest and avoided damage, and should better suit Camper’s red boat which comes from the drawing board of eminent yacht designer Marcelino Botín in collaboration with Emirates Team New Zealand design staff.
'We just have to bide our time for this next leg,' he said. 'There’ll be a bit more upwind which we’re comfortable with and just keep chipping away at where we’re weak.
'Now we have a lot of homework in regards to the weather and geographical obstacles that we have in the next leg. I don’t think the next leg will be won by boat speed, it will be won with being smart and keeping the boat in one piece and going the right way.'
With a gap of around a week before the Leg 3 restart Nicholson will have plenty of time to ponder his team’s first non-podium finish in the race so far. With the most evenly matched fleet of boats in the race’s 38-year history, the Australian skipper knows every point lost could be costly when the race culminates in Galway, Ireland this July.
'You want to get as many points on the board as early as you can' he said. 'You can see all the boats have weak and strong areas and you just don’t want to end up in a position further down the track where one or two of the legs don’t favour you.'
The fleet is expected to arrive at the safe haven port around January 21 with the start of the second stage of Leg 3 to Sanya, China taking place shortly afterwards.
Mike Sanderson’s Chinese entry Team Sanya who were forced to suspend racing to repair damage to their rigging during the first stage of Leg 2 are expected to arrive at the safe haven port in time to rejoin the main fleet for the 3300 nautical mile Leg 3 second stage to their home port.
Volvo Ocean Race website