Yachting: Camper revelling in the Southern Ocean

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

Team New Zealand's Camper have hit the lead in the Volvo Ocean Race after finally finding the fast Southern Ocean downwind sailing conditions they have been waiting for in leg five.

Over the last 24 hours, the breeze has been steadily building with gusts over 40 knots, while air and sea temperatures have been plunging as the boats track south towards Cape Horn.

Camper have been revelling in the heavy running conditions, with an average boat speed well in excess of 20 knots, and slipped into first place early this morning as the fleet rocketed towards the first ice exclusion limit. Camper held a slim lead over Groupama, Puma and Telefonica, with Abu Dhabi, who had to turn back to Auckland shortly after the start of the leg, well back in fourth.

Previous leaders Sanya have missed out on the chance to enjoy the conditions after being forced to turn around and head back to New Zealand, with a snapped rudder scuppering their progress for the third time in the race.

With the strong westerly depression currently sitting over the fleet expected to intensify over the next 24 hours, bringing even stronger and colder winds and bigger seas, teams are having to balance racing performance with simple survival and keeping boat and crew in one piece.

Camper co-skipper Stu Bannatyne said Camper will aim to make the most of the Southern Ocean sailing.

"Without a doubt the best sailing in the world is downwind sailing in the Southern Ocean, no question about that. We are about to get a bit of it. Our tactics for sailing from here to Cape Horn - be safe and go fast. These boats will get up and go pretty quickly and we'll have some very tight racing at breakneck speeds. It's going to be a fun ride."

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson agreed it would be a testing but exhilarating few days.

"Thirty-five to 40 knots in the Southern Ocean tests everything out - drivers, boats, rigs. You name it really, it's going to get a hammering. So our priorities are no injuries, no breakages and to keep the hammer down.

"This is what the Volvo Ocean Race is all about though and this is why we do it. After everything we put ourselves through, it all becomes worthwhile down here."


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