CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson blogs from Galway on the eve of the final act of the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race
Almost two years ago we began this programme with the aim of winning the Volvo Ocean Race. Obviously, we have not achieved that but with a second overall, the 24 hour distance record for the race and hopefully the in-port series to our name it’s not a bad record.
Winning the final leg and securing our first leg win for the race was hugely important for team. We’ve had our ups and downs and for a while there it was looking as though podium finish was slipping away from us. Personally, I found it very difficult to have such a good team that had delivered so much right from the very start not being up there with the top teams. So after Leg 9 to now see us in second overall is pretty satisfying.
We dug deep, we didn’t let the frustration get to us and we stuck to our game plan and the results eventually flowed. It’s good to see.
In this leg we went as light as possible. Water, fuel, food, you name it we went for the bare minimum in an effort to get as light as possible. We also moded the boat for optimum performance on port tack so we from the outset we were pretty happy with the way the boat was set up for this leg.
It was strange because in Lorient looking at the leg on paper it didn’t suit us at all and gave us no reason to be confident. Despite that I think everyone left the dock very confident in our ability to win the leg and gain maximum points. The pre-start penalty out of Lorient was potentially a major and I was pretty annoyed with myself for making the mistake, but we fought back and by the time we headed out to sea had got back to the top of the fleet.
The key thing in this leg was that we got the fundamentals right. We were aggressive with our sail changes and probably did 20 to 30% more than any other team. The attitude was completely that we would do whatever it took to get in the lead.
All the big tactical calls over the leg we pretty much nailed and this combined with the excellent crew work from the guys meant that we could overcome the speed deficit we’ve struggled with on other legs.
The win was a massive move for us in a high pressure situation. It was a huge turn around for us and I don’t think many people saw it coming. Obviously it secured us a podium position but it was more than that – it was a big thank you for the whole team and a nice validation of the quality of our programme.
We have such a great team so for me personally it’s pretty neat to be able to see them experiencing what a leg win is like. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve managed to get runner up in the Volvo Ocean Race in a boat which is generally acknowledged as not one of the fastest in the fleet. It says a lot about the quality of the team.
Now we just have one in-port race left and then this all-consuming project that has occupied literally every waking moment for the last two years will be over. Wonder what I’ll do then to stop myself getting bored?