Yachting: A Solomon split for Camper

Andy McLean putting a reef in the mainsail onboard Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand. Photo / Volvo Ocean Race
Andy McLean putting a reef in the mainsail onboard Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand. Photo / Volvo Ocean Race

With the equator behind them and now into the southern hemisphere, Team New Zealand's Camper has decided to split the fleet and attempt a tricky passage through the Solomon Islands.

Camper, along with the other westerly boats Telefonica and Sanya, made the call overnight to pass through the largely uncharted island chain in darkness while the rest of the fleet further east gave it a wide berth.

Camper navigator Will Oxley said he first considered the route more than a year ago, and it was not a decision taken lightly.

"[I] had been thinking seriously about it for a few days. So when we got a wind shift yesterday it was pretty clearly the best option if we wanted to attack the leaders."

The route between the islands of Santa Isabel and Choiseul creates a significant separation in the fleet and, while potentially opening up a number of opportunities, presents a host of challenges, from unmarked coral reefs and massive wind shadows to strange tidal surges.

"There are no half measures now," Oxley said. "Having made the decision to go through the Solomon Islands and take a westerly option through the Coral sea, we now have to tough it out and stick to our guns to the end game in about seven days' time as we approach the top of New Zealand and see how it plays out."

Camper is currently sitting in fifth place, some 170 miles off the pace, but is hoping the gamble to take the risky passage through the islands will pay off late next week as the fleet closes in on New Zealand.

"The final verdict won't be obvious until we actually get across the Tasman and approach Cape Reinga. There's also a good chance that the weather system that has just affected New Zealand will disrupt the trade winds in the east as it moves away, which will then cause new trades to fill in from the west.

"That means there's further probability that west is best, so that's another deciding factor for us."

- APNZ

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