by Thomas Pryor
Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 started today, 5th November, at 1400 local time in Alicante, Spain. Camper flew out of the starting blocks this afternoon as the race began in spectacular conditions.
Leg 1 start from Alicante - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Skipper Chris Nicholson and the crew were faultless during the short inshore course leading the fleet off the line and extending as they flew around the course covering eight nautical miles in under 40 minutes.
Speaking on the dock this morning Nicholson commented, 'The conditions do suit us today but you know it can be so different when you are racing to when you are training. We just want to get out of Alicante and to Gibraltar in good shape, we don’t want to have any issues in this first 24 hours as it is forecast to be quite rough out there. I know everyone has said this but whoever gets to Gibraltar first is going to have an advantage so we’re going to go pretty hard to try and get to there in first place. I did my farewell on the phone earlier, which was hard, but as I look around I see a lot of emotion especially with our team. It’s a very close knit team between both the sailing and shore team and also with our sponsors Camper. So, it’s hard to leave but I can’t wait for the welcoming that they will give us in Cape Town It will be quite special.'
The forecast of 20 plus knots didn’t disappoint as the thousands of spectators lining the walls and beaches of Alicante were treated to spectacular sight of six Volvo 70‘s fully powered up. The fleet put the pedal down and accelerated around the eight mile course. Camper’s strategy over the short inshore course was simple as they chose to stick to just two headsails.
As Camper led the fleet out past the final mark to leave Alicante Bay co-skipper and watch captain Stu Bannatyne commented, 'That was a bit of a frenzy, we just wanted to keep it simple, our plan to stick to two sails has worked out nicely for us. We’ve got a long way to go before we can relax and settle down. We’ve got to stack the boat, and run through some sail changes, it’s going to be pretty busy over the next 36 hrs. It’s a great start for us but it’s certainly not over yet! '
The fleet can expect a baptism of fire over the next 24 hours as they face winds in excess of 30 - 35 knots for the routing through the Mediterranean and towards Gibraltar.
The race is on to reach Cabo de Gata, after which the fleet will then turn the corner and head west to Gibraltar.
The battle over the next 6,500 miles has just begun but as Camper’s navigator Will Oxley put it,'that is the equivalent of 10.3 Sydney Hobart's races, it doesn’t seem as long when you put it like that.'
Rounding positions and provisional times at the Alicante leaving mark:
1. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand 39 minutes 44 seconds,
2. Puma Ocean Racing powered by BERG +1 min 39 sec
3. Team Telefónica + 2:15
4. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing + 2:55
5. Groupama sailing team + 3:57
6. Sanya +7:38
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand website