Friday, 10 June 2011

Auckland to Fiji : Down to the Wire

On board CAMPER ETNZ. Image copyright Chris Cameron/CAMPER.

by CAMPER ETNZ media

After four days of racing 1141 miles CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand were locked in a close battle in the final stages of the Auckland Fiji race. CAMPER crossed the finish line this evening local time (09.06.11) completing another stage of its preparation for the Volvo Ocean Race. Skipper Chris Nicholson said the team had achieved its objectives. “It was a good shakedown of yacht systems and crew under race conditions. We sailed a good race. The yacht went really well and I couldn’t fault the crew work.”

“The final stages developed into a battle between a monohull and a trimaran. Unbelievable, really. The battle added a lot of interest to the final stages. We hoped we could hold them off but once we got into the south-east trades the conditions suited a 60ft multihull. We were averaging 17-18 knots and they were hitting 25, it was only a matter of time before our 150-mile plus lead disappeared.”

CAMPER is not stopping in Fiji. The yacht stayed long enough to drop Emirates Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton and photographer Chris Cameron and headed back to sea for the voyage home and a heavy programme of sail testing.

The navigation and tactical decisions from the start played to CAMPER’s advantage as they pulled ahead of their closest rival the 60-foot trimaran Team Vodafone. Their hard-earned lead, that at one point stretched to 174 miles, was over the past 24 hours slowly whittled away as the multihull put on the pace in the following wind.

It was exactly the conditions that worried the CAMPER crew earlier in the race. Navigator Will Oxley was not entirely happy on the second day of the race when CAMPER had just over 100-mile lead on Vodafone. He said: “Our main competition, Vodafone, has continued on a north-east route. They look to have had some light winds and they are now 105nm further from the finish than us. I think we need about a 160nm lead when Vodafone enters the trades to hold them off for the last 36 hours. So, even though 105 looks like a good lead, having raced against the ORMA 60 trimarans in the Atlantic, it’s still not enough!”

For CAMPER it has been a perfect training opportunity, allowing them to test a watch system and crew under true race conditions.