CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand has set off on the final leg of the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race from Lorient, France to Galway, Ireland. The 550 nautical mile sprint should take less than 48 hours to complete and will see the fleet head out of the Bay of Biscay, across the English Channel, past the iconic Fastnet Rock, and up the south coast of Ireland to the finish line in Galway.
It is the last ocean leg in this marathon race after some nine months and 39,000 miles of offshore racing, and although Groupama looks comfortable in first place overall, everything is left to play for in the remaining podium places with only four points between second placed Puma and third placed CAMPER. With 30 points on offer for a leg win a top three result should ensure an overall podium position for CAMPER.
CAMPER got off to a less idea start after being penalised in pre-start manoeuvres for failing to keep clear of Telefonica and had to complete a 360 degree penalty turn. However, the team fought back in the inshore aspect of the course and as the fleet headed out to sea had clawed their way back from last to second place.
Racing got underway in moderate westerly of 12 to 14 knots with the wind forecast to build overnight to strong two sail reaching conditions of 25 to 26 knots. The boats must first sail south 25 miles round the island of Belle Ile before heading offshore towards Ireland and into the strong south westerly breeze.
CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson says that the team will be treating the short sprint as more of an in-port race than an offshore leg.
“The intensity will go up another notch for this one. I don’t think any of will be getting any sleep and we’ve stripped the boat down to an absolute minimum to make it as light as possible.
“It’s going to be port tack reaching for 95% of the leg which a few months ago would be doom and gloom for us as that’s not our strong point of sailing.
“However, I think we’ve improved significantly on that point of sail and for this leg we’ve dramatically configured the boat for maximum performance on port tack. By that I mean we’ve shifted everything we can down below to the port side of the boat to get as much weight as possible to windward.
“Effectively we’ve now got the equivalent of a few extra guys sitting on our port rail so I’m more confident than what I ever have been before of our performance while jib reaching on port tack.
“We need to go out of here and get as many points on the board as possible. It’s a hell of a fight with Puma and Telefonica for second overall and we’re leaving nothing in the tank in an attempt to win this one. Bring it on.”
CAMPER is expected to arrive in Galway in the early hours of Tuesday 3 July local time/early evening NZT.