Sail-World talks to four times Volvo Ocean race veteran, Chris Nicholson, the just announced skipper of Team Vestas Wind ahead of today's announcement. Here is Part II of that interview.
July 30, 2014. Vestas Wind Team skipper Chris Nicholson - Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15
‘We believe we can give this race a good shake. We will be a young team, a good mix of proven experience and new energy and enthusiasm.
‘With the Spanish entry and ourselves the bar has been raised. If we can get competitive, you know it is going to be a massive race.
‘If we can’t get our act together and get competitive it is going to take a hit. Everyone just thinks it’s a given that we will be competitive. I can tell you, we know we are so pushed it's ridiculous.
‘We will literally get two weeks of sailing on the way down from the UK. Sailing in the Med during that last couple of weeks before the start is not going to do anything for us and we have got three new guys that have never done the race before.
‘Having said that I also see those three guys as our key to actually doing well, but we have got to train and develop them in a two-week period. They have got a steep learning curve coming up.
‘We need ocean time. We have also got to get down into assembly start in time. My chief responsibility is to make sure that we have a boat and crew that is safe. I am not going to let anything pressure me away from that.
‘We can only hope that a weather front or two might come through the Bay of Biscay. Every time I go through there it is like a near death experience. Probably it will be nice and calm, and I will have to motor across this time.
‘Once we get to Alicante, sailing is on the back-burner. The normal assembly period is just frantic in terms of the diesel courses, medical courses, and resuscitation. Skippers have meeting after meeting. It is quite often a very small focus on the sailing at that stage.
‘There are a thousand distractions all away from really what your main goal is but that’s all it will be.
‘Checking over the boat. We won’t have done enough miles on the boat obviously to discover too much. What we are relying on is that all the teams in front of us to have discovered all the problems that we are going to see and we have to try and fix though issues beforehand.
‘There is a combined question and answer forum for any changes to the boat. All those things are public knowledge to the teams, and we are already going to do some of those before we roll out the schedule. In that regard, I think the boat will be all fine. This is just all about how we operate the boat really. I am not concerned about the boat. Coxy will take care of that. We have got to do our job and learn how to sail the thing fast.
‘We have got a really good youngsters, but also guys who understand how the race has evolved. We are going to have the smallest shore team of any team in the race.
‘As sailors we are going to have to do more work on the boat on the stopovers. It was the only way we could make it all work. We have got guys that understand what we are about and potentially that can be good for us. I have just got to make sure that also we get enough race.
‘I imagine we have a smaller budget than most. We are late, and we are responsible in terms of budget so having said that we will have the key ingredients of an equal boat and good sailors. Those key ingredients we haven’t neglected at all.
‘Looking at the other teams. The crew that the Spanish team is putting together, I think they have learned some valuable lessons from the last race. It looks like a very powerful team they are putting there. They are late to the game but are obviously nowhere need as late as us.
‘The other guys, obviously they have had the benefit of time and probably more funding, and obviously they believe they are in a comfortable place.
‘I think it is going to boil down to what their level of intensity has been for these last six to 18 months and if it has been high then we are in trouble. If it hasn’t been as high as what we are going to do for our whole two weeks of testing, which is all we will get before the start, believe me we will be doing an extremely intensive two weeks.
‘It’s just a question of just how much we can bridge the gap.
‘Just how hard have they gone for that period of time? They have had all the opportunity in the world.
‘We could be lucky and have the right mix of guys, the perfect mix of guys on board to get our head around it really fast in two weeks. But I just keep thinking if it was a 49er and everyone is giving it the same level of intensity then the person that does the most hours is usually going to win.
‘We can’t do that. We don’t have the ability to get those hours back. We certainly have to be realistic about the situation.
‘To be perfectly honest, if we can get mid fleet on the first leg, we will be happy..
‘I hope that’s what we are going to find form quickly again so we can then be up there as we get stronger in the last legs. Right now off the start line, we need to catch our breath.
‘I have got this feeling that it is not going to be until Abu Dhabi, possibly Auckland until we are able to match it. But then it will be game on.’