Yachting: Calmer waters for Camper

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand. Photo / Chris Cameron
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand. Photo / Chris Cameron

Camper has gone from one extreme to another - from 40 knots of wind to four - as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet enters an area dominated by a ridge of high pressure.

The light conditions had seen Camper move away from the main fleet and position themselves to the south west in order to give the light pressure zone a wider berth, but the crew later decided to tack over to move closer to the main bunch.

The fleet remains tightly grouped with fewer than 15 nautical miles separating the top five boats after 700 nautical miles of racing. The lighter conditions have provided some welcome relief for the crew after two days of horrendous conditions that saw boat and crew pushed to the limit.

However, Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said the crew are itching to get into some heavy weather downwind sailing.

"We've got about 24 hours of light stuff as we cross this ridge then we should be back into the breeze sometime tonight.

"We have positioned to the south west of the fleet in order to give the ridge of high pressure a wider berth than what the other boats are. Hopefully, we'll be able to sneak through in better shape than the others and then pick up the new breeze more smartly than the main bunch.

"We're managing to stay in reasonable pressure for the time being, but it's just amazing what a turnaround in conditions we've seen over the last 24 hours - it's like we're sailing in a completely different patch of water.

"Looking ahead it seems as though we should finally get some downwind spinnaker running in 17 to 25 knots once we're past this ridge of high pressure. That should suit us, so we can't wait."

Puma had more serious problems to contend with in the form of two injured crew but decided against a detour to the Chatham Islands and will instead remain with the rest of the fleet and push on for South America.

Helmsman Thomas Johanson dislocated his shoulder after being washed across the boat's cockpit by a wave and bowman Casey Smith was confined to his bunk by a recurrence of a pre-existing back injury during a routine sail change.

Brutal wind and sea conditions made life difficult for all of the boats in the first 48 hours since setting off from Auckland on Sunday and Abu Dhabi returned to Auckland for repairs.

"I feel like I've gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson," Puma skipper Ken Read said. "Everybody in the fleet's body and mind is pretty shot right now.

"Thomas found himself on the leeward side of the cockpit, crumpled in a heap. He was coming on deck and got blindsided by this wave and got crunched."

After taking medical advice from race and team doctors, Puma onboard medic Jono Swain successfully re-located Johanson's shoulder.

"Jono just slowly popped his shoulder back in place and all of a sudden you saw his eyes open up," Read said. "It was instantaneous relief. He was back on deck today having a drive, so he's recuperating quite quickly."

However, Read said Smith's back injury was a trickier scenario which they were treating with pain medication and could still require him to be taken off the boat at Cape Horn.

"At one point we were heading to the Chatham Islands to get rid of both of them," Read confirmed. "But then Thomas' shoulder got popped back in and we had a long talk to Casey.

"He's a tough guy, he's a team guy, so essentially we said let's at least get to Cape Horn and if there's no improvement by then, we'll figure out a way to get rid of him. But up until then there's not a whole lot of options."

"Hopefully the medication will start to work a bit better and we'll see a light at the end of the tunnel. Right now he's still in pain."


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