Yachting: Exhausted crews blast tight stopover

By Dana Johannsen

Volvo Ocean racing New Zealand crew Team Camper celebrate in front of a large crowd that gathered at the Viaduct after arriving in Auckland after leg four. Photo / Greg Bowker
Volvo Ocean racing New Zealand crew Team Camper celebrate in front of a large crowd that gathered at the Viaduct after arriving in Auckland after leg four. Photo / Greg Bowker

Several prominent sailors have criticised the schedule of the Volvo Ocean Race stopovers which has left the exhausted crews with just one week to prepare for the next leg.

Sailors arriving in Auckland yesterday said race organisers were asking too much of them to get up and running again to take on the gruelling Southern Ocean leg to Brazil in the space of seven days.

After 20 energy-sapping days at sea - many of them slamming upwind in heavy seas - the thought of turning around and doing it all again come Sunday was too much for many of the crews.

Team New Zealand skipper Chris Nicholson said his team would likely get only half a day off to wind down before they had to reassemble again today and begin the debriefing process of a disappointing fourth-place finish.

"A few of us were thinking about staying in our wet weather gear and just keep going - it would be easier than going to a motel and great food.

"It'll take a team that's got some character to be able to turn around and be ready for Southern Ocean racing in a week's time."

The crews were originally due to arrive in Auckland last Thursday, but a delay to the start of leg four to wait out a brewing storm effectively set the fleet back three days, reducing their already limited turnaround time.

With the leg five stopover in Brazil three weeks long, some have suggested the teams should be given an extra few days in Auckland to prepare. But Volvo Ocean Race chief executive Knut Frostad has already denied this option.

"It is not something we will consider," he said last week.

While the sailors will face a huge battle to recover physically and mentally from the 5220 nautical mile leg from China, the shore crews arguably face a more daunting task.

The delayed arrival into the City of Sails, plus a busy schedule of practice racing, Pro-Am and In-Port races leading up to the leg five start, leaves the shore teams with just four days to get the boats back in the water.

They have to carry out maintenance and repair damage from the previous legas well as change the moding of the boat for the very different conditions they will face in Southern Ocean racing.

Puma watch captain Brad Jackson, who was given the honour of steering his team into his home port after fending off Telefonica and Camper to take second place, said he doesn't know how the shore crews can pull it off under time constraints.

"[In] the Southern Ocean, we've got to do quite a few things differently than what we do now, so we've got to reconfigure the boat a bit. There is a lot to do," said Jackson, one of three Kiwis aboard Puma.

Having arrived in Auckland on Saturday night, 12 hours ahead of Puma, leg-four winners Groupama got the jump on their rivals when it came to preparing their boat for the next leg. The team wasted little time in hoisting their boat out of the water to fix a crack in their bow that briefly threatened their hopes of victory.

Despite a comfortable lead of around 100 nautical miles, Groupama had a scare late in the leg when they discovered more than a tonne of water in the bow as they raced down the coast of New Zealand.

Frantic bailing ensued, and they went on to claim their first offshore victory of the race.

The win saw Groupama leapfrog Team New Zealand into second place overall, but they could make only a small inroad into Telefonica's overall lead, which is still a healthy 18 points.

Despite reiterating his boss Grant Dalton's comments that Camper's VO70 boat had a massive speed disadvantage against the frontrunners, Nicholson was still hopeful his team could arrest their slide in the next leg.

He said nothing could be done to the boat during the short stopover to eke out any more speed, so they need to sail to their strengths.

"That's what the product is. In tight reaching, we're not as fast. We need to find some racetrack where it's not tight reaching. The next leg will give us that."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 24 Jul 2014 17:30:41 Processing Time: 847ms