by Lucy Harwood
Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 team Camper established a new IWC Schaffhausen Speed Record with a 24-hour run of 564.922 nautical miles on the fourth day of leg eight.
Huge walls of white water crash over the deck onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Navigator Will Oxley said on Thursday that the key to winning Leg Eight will be getting the balance right between speed and caution.
At 1500 UTC Camper was just 5.1 nautical miles behind leg leader Groupama, with the fleet less than 500 miles from the finish line in Lorient. It could now all come down to how well the crew gybes in winds of up to 40 knots in the closing stages of this intriguing leg.
After the deep Atlantic depression had resulted in breakneck speeds for the fleet overnight, Oxley believes Camper is now nicely positioned but stressed keeping errors to a minimum would be key to winning the leg and claiming the maximum 30 points.
'We’re seriously on the edge. It’s very hard work, everything’s maximum load, and we’re just hanging on,' Oxley said. 'We’re still waiting for the low pressure, the barometer has dropped about 20 millibars in 24 hours - which is a pretty significant drop - and we are expecting tonight to be probably one of the windiest nights of the race. So we are going to have to take care as well as push hard. It’s a fine balance, and hopefully we end up on the right side of the equation.'
Oxley said that in the last 24 hours the fleet had broken the speeds achieved on the first leg from Alicante to Cape Town.
'This is the fastest the boats have gone in the entire race so far,' he said. 'Back of the envelope calculations say we’ve done 558 miles, Puma’s done 558 miles, Groupama’s done 558 miles, and Telefonica’s done 563, so we’ve all gone faster than our run on leg one, and there’s still more of it to come.'
Asked about the continual bailing of water out of the boat after a seemingly endless deluge in the last day or so, Oxley replied: 'It’s not clear whether we are in a submarine or a yacht – my swimming pool doesn’t have quite as much water as this!'
Oxley predicted a very fast finish in France, with the boats expected to arrive in Lorient on Friday during daylight.
'As we move away from low the breeze should hit us, turn to the left a bit, and moderate a little bit, but we will probably even have 20 knots at the finish line,' he said.
Media crew member Hamish Hooper insisted the Camper crew will fight tooth and nail to win the leg.
'You can sense the determination of all of the guys onboard,' he said. 'This is incredible tough and draining sailing but you just know these guys are not going to give an inch to the other boats. We still have an outside chance of winning this race and you can guarantee that everyone onboard will fight with everything to keep the hope alive.'
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand website