by Lucy Harwood
Volvo Ocean Race entry Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand's epic journey is nearly over. After 29 days at sea, Chris Nicholson’s lion-hearted crew are closing in on the leg five finish in Itajai, Brazil, where their frustration at having to sail an extra 2,500 plus miles compared with their rivals will be eased somewhat by the 15 points they will bag for finishing fourth.
All eyes on the gybe onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
From leading the fleet in the early stages of the leg that started in Auckland, the boat fell victim to the merciless Southern Ocean that battered the fleet and eliminated two teams altogether. A damaged bow forced Camper to divert to Puerto Montt on the west coast of Chile for repairs, and lesser crews may have been tempted to throw in the towel. But not this plucky bunch. Four days later the boys were back in business, unfazed by the prospect of tackling Cape Horn’s hazardous waters. The repairs stood up to the test, and the team is less than 225 miles from Itajai. They are expected to arrive at 1200 UTC on Tuesday (April 17). That will give the crew precious little time before the Pro-Am Race on April 20 and the In-port Race the following day. Leg 6 to Miami will start on Sunday, April 22.
Camper veteran Tony Rae said the weather had been kind to the team as their marathon nears its end.
'We’ve probably had the best conditions we could ask for getting up the coast here,' he said on Monday. 'It was pretty lumpy and bumpy around the Horn, but the last few days we have been sailing downwind at speeds of up to 20 knots. We’ve been making good time and it has been pretty nice sailing actually, so we’re pretty lucky. It means that we’ve got valuable hours on shore to get the boat ready to go, and hopefully have a day off before loading the boat again and hitting the Pro-Am and the In-port race.'
Rae insisted the crew had not gone easy on the boat after the repairs in Chile.
'We haven’t just been cruising along, we’ve been pushing the boat as hard as possible in the conditions we’ve had without doing any damage,' he said.
'We need to get there as soon as possible and I know the shore crew are very keen to pull things apart and get the rig out – we need every hour we can get really. What’s comforting is we’ve sailed from Puerto Montt around the Horn and given the boat a pretty good battering again. It gives us a lot of confidence in the repairs that were made.'
Although Camper is nearing the Leg 5 finish line, a windless hole off the coast of Itajai threatens to slow their push.
'This would be a cruel and painful way to end the leg,' said Media Crew Member Hamish Hooper. 'We are hoping the breeze will carry us all the way there.'
Despite such an arduous journey, Hooper insisted the die-hard Camper spirit was very much intact.
'As we come toward the end of this leg there is a real sense of steely resolve on board,' he said.
'Yes we are tired, we barely won’t have time off, we will be pushed for time to get ready for the In-port race and the next leg. But if we can do what we have done in this past month, then there is no reason we can’t do what it takes to win the in-port race, the next leg into Miami and the whole race.'
Click here for the full interview with Tony Rae.
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand website
Volvo Ocean Race website