by Lucy Harwood
Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 eighth leg, a 1,940 mile race from Lisbon to Lorient in France, got underway on Sunday 10th June. The Portuguese capital once again provided a spectacular back drop as the six-boat fleet started racing. The route will see the crews head east from Lisbon to the Azores, where they will tackle the Azores High. The fleet will then head north east, through the Bay of Biscay and onto the finish in Lorient, which is predicted to be just six days from now.
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand passes Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument at the start of Leg eight from Lisbon, Portuga - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Speaking on the dock this morning, Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said, 'It all looks pretty quick, some people are saying five days, but I think realistically it looks like six days, either way it is shaping up to be a fairly quick trip.'
'In terms of the forecast, there is a little reaching out to the Azores and then we should see some compression once we get there and tackle the big high that is sitting right over the top of it. One would prefer to be in the lead as you break through Azores High, but after that it will depend on how you deal with this low pressure system at the end. We haven't seen these boats running in much more than 30 knots before, so we should see lots of breeze into Lorient, which suits us well.'
The points remain incredibly tight at the top, the misfortune of Telefónica yesterday in the In-Port race has seen Groupama extend their overall lead but Camper are now closer to third placed Puma who are just ten points ahead of them. For Chris Nicholson and his crew this race is far from over: 'We've got a great team out here and we're going to push and fight for this all the way to the finish in Galway. We have faith on our ability and faith in our boat and we are looking forward to a good leg. If we get a big low pressure system into Lorient then it will all be game on for everybody. We will see winds in excess of 30 to 35 knots. If that happens, and I hope it does, then you could see a very upsetting leg for some teams and conditions that we relish.'
A short course along the Tagus River saw Camper excel in the difficult conditions as they battled with Puma for the lead, the breeze became light and shifty as the two boats approached the first mark, Puma slipping ahead as Camper found the wind gate closed and were forced to find another route ahead. Both boats rounded the first mark with a healthy lead on those chasing behind, Telefónica and Groupama brought up the rear of the fleet some eight minutes behind the front runners. After the 11 mile course the fleet disappeared over the horizon, Camper had closed to within 200 metres, with Groupama 2.4nm behind in sixth.
The fleet are expected to complete the 1,940 nm in six days, arriving into Lorient on Saturday 16 June.
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand website