by Stefano Blin
In the Volvo Ocean Race, Rob ‘Salty’ Salthouse is eyeing the chance to close the gap on the leading pack on Leg 7, despite seeing his Camper team slip back down a compressing fleet in conditions less favourable to their boat.
Roberto Bermudez De Castro on the helm, onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal.
The Camper yacht, currently lying in fifth place, excels in downwind sailing rather than the current hard-reaching conditions that is benefiting rivals Telefónica and Groupama. However, an area of light air directly ahead could stall the frontrunners and allow Camper back into the contest - as long as they choose the fastest route through it.
'We’re slowly coming into this ridge that is just off the coast. We’re compressing in on the front guys and it’s all to play for,' Salty said on Wednesday (May 30). 'We’ve probably still got a couple of hundred miles of reaching to go and boats like Groupama, which have again shown their speed in those conditions, will be hard to hold off. But hopefully we can get enough of a jump to be in the right position and hold that off'
Salty admitted his sixth Atlantic crossing has been full of surprises.
'It’s been very up and down and obviously the weather has played a huge part in that right from the start,' he said. 'This is the sixth Atlantic crossing for me and it has been extremely different from every other one I’ve done. The seas have been extremely flat, and it has been extremely tricky the way the weather systems have moved or haven’t moved in some cases. It’s been bizarre, and you’ve seen that in the position changes on the race course.'
Skipper Chris Nicholson believes negotiating the ridge of light air will be the key to success with less than 500 nautical miles to Lisbon.
'It depends on who picks the right spot and is first to wobble through,' Nicholson said. 'Anyone who makes a mistake ahead won’t have a chance to recover.'
In the 1300 UTC position report Abu Dhabi’s lead over Groupama had been reduced to 13.60 nautical miles, with a little over 35 nm separating second place from sixth.
Volvo Ocean Race website