Dana Johannsen on sport

Dana Johannsen is a Herald sport writer

Yachting: Camper gains fighting chance

By Dana Johannsen

Camper sailors Andrew Mclean and Rob Salthouse celebrate in Miami at the end of leg six. Photo / Chris Cameron
Camper sailors Andrew Mclean and Rob Salthouse celebrate in Miami at the end of leg six. Photo / Chris Cameron

After a couple of disappointing showings over the last two legs, a second place finish on leg six to Miami has given Team New Zealand's round-the-world entry Camper a fighting chance in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Camper sailed in to Miami yesterday morning just over an hour behind American entry Puma, after an enthralling 17-day battle since leaving Brazil.

French boat Groupama finished in third and overall leaders Telefonica were fourth, missing out on a podium place for the first time in the race.

The results have compressed the points table significantly, with the top four teams in the overall standings finishing leg six in the reverse order to their position on the leaderboard.

That has seen Telefonica's lead over Groupama cut to 11 points, with Camper a further four points back in third, while Puma are nipping at the heels of the Kiwi team on the back of their consecutive leg wins.

With the leading pack so tightly bunched, it sets up a fascinating battle over the final three legs of the marathon race across the Atlantic and through Europe.

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said his team were still in with every chance of taking out overall honours.

"This race is becoming so tight that every point is going to count.

"After this leg any one of the top four boats could be in the running to win," Nicholson told dockside reporters shortly after the team's arrival in Miami.

"It's very close and as we head to Europe I think there's every chance that it could come down to the wire in Galway and that suits us."

After suffering breakages on the previous leg from Auckland to Brazil, Nicholson said he was pleased with the way his team bounced back on leg six.

Camper was relentless in applying pressure during the nail-biting duel and at one stage in the final 24 hours closed to within 0.6 nautical miles (nm) of Puma as the two boats battled down the Florida coastline.

The Kiwi boat was in the hunt for the lead throughout the 17-day leg from Itajai, Brazil, with much of the 4800 nautical mile contest more resembling a match race than an ocean race as Puma, Camper and Telefonica raced in sight of each other.

In the last few days of the leg some smart sailing from Puma and Camper saw them pull away from the main pack and establish a 60nm buffer on the trailing boats as they went on to fight it out for first and second place respectively.

"This has been a good leg for us. In conditions that didn't always suit us we sailed well and were relentless in pressing for the lead," said Nicholson.

"We saw a lot of good things from both us and Puma in this leg and I think that bodes well for us in the rest of this race."

Although Camper have yet to win a leg in the race, Nicholson is delighted with his team's progress.

"I'm feeling pretty good, to be honest with you.

"We did everything we could with Puma.

"I think they sailed a brilliant leg but I think we sailed a very good leg as well," he said.

The crew of Camper now have their first real break in three months with racing resuming with the Miami in-port race on May 19.

- NZ Herald

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