by Lucy Harwood
The Volvo Ocean Race is currently underway and for the Camper crew who have now been at sea for thirteen days, they find themselves some one-hundred and fifty miles behind the leaders. But fortunes can quickly turn around in offshore sailing – just ask Groupama.
Chris Nicholson, Will Oxley and Stuart Bannatyne move a sail forward to change onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
This time last week, Franck Cammas and his crew were 126 miles ahead of their closest rival. Now, they languish 370 miles off the pace, and lie out of the podium places. There is still 3,000 miles to go in this leg, and Camper skipper Chris Nicholson isn’t giving up hope of catching the frontrunners, Puma and Telefonica.
'We are just hanging in there, looking to gain any miles where we can, not taking unnecessary risks, but being patient for any opportunity to get back up with the leaders when one presents itself,' said the former Australian Olympian. 'There is still another half of the leg to go, still a lot to happen yet.'
The spirit onboard has remained strong, and there was lots of laughter on Thursday after Adam Minoprio and Hamish Hooper crossed the equator for the first time. In keeping with an historic sailing tradition, sailors crossing the equator for the first time must undergo a ritual in which they stand trial in front of King Neptune and his court and are punished for former sins. Adam and Hamish were tied up, pelted with rotting food and had their heads and eyebrows shaved, much to the delight of King Neptune (played by Tony Rae).
As Adam and Hamish wait for their hair to grow back, Nicholson stressed the need for patience as he and his crew look to pull themselves back into contention in leg one.
'Our tactics from here will be to wait for an opportunity and try not to force an opportunity that isn’t there that will cost us some miles,' he said. 'We were probably a little bit guilty of that on this leg to date. So now there are a lot of miles to go, we need to be sensible about it, wait for an opportunity to present itself, and chip away at some miles. You just never know if there is a ridge or a big frontal system, then we’re in with a chance to get back in the game.'
As the fleet continues south west past the Brazilian coast, Puma and Telefonica have been benefitting from good trade winds, but ahead of them lies a difficult weather pattern of light air that could see wind speeds decrease to below 10 knots. This could play nicely into the hands for Camper as they look to strike back. When asked if he thought Camper could still win this leg, Nicholson was in no doubt: 'Absolutely. There is still 3,000 miles to go and we’re pulling back the miles. We’ve got the hammer down as far it can go at the moment.'
Leg One Position Report (18/11/11 - 1900 UTC):
1. Telefonica - Distance to finish 2880 miles
2 Puma + 33.40 miles
3 Camper +158.70 miles
4 Groupama + 378 miles
Abu Dhabi - Retired from leg 1
Sanya - Retired from leg 1
Volvo Ocean Race Website