Team New Zealand boat Camper has made a strong start to leg eight of the Volvo Ocean Race from Lisbon to Lorient overnight (NZT) sitting in second place as the fleet heads out to sea after completing the short inshore course.
The penultimate leg of the race sees the boats race 1940 nautical miles from Lisbon reaching out around the Azores Island, and through the tricky light air conditions of the Azores High before running into Lorient in what will most likely be heavy weather fast downwind sailing.
Current routing suggest the leg will take five to six days with the first boat expected to arrive in Lorient on Friday or Saturday.
With Camper currently sitting in fourth place overall 23 points behind first placed Groupama, a strong showing is essential in this leg if the team is keep their hopes of a podium finish alive.
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Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said the vital leg was shaping up to offer a mix of conditions.
"It's looking like a fair bit of jib reaching or fractional zero reaching. If it's like that, it's ok for us. We'll hang in there with the Juan K boats until the Azores. I think it's all looking pretty quick - some are saying five days but I don't believe that, I think it will be more like six days. But it's a fairly quick trip to Lorient and we could get a lot of breeze on the way back from the Azores to Lorient.
"There will be a little bit of compression going into the Azores but you'd still prefer to be in the lead at that point because you'll probably break out sooner. Then it's about how you deal with this low pressure at the end. I'm hoping it's a big system which it's possibly shaping up to be. We haven't seen these boats running in 30 knots plus so it would be like a whole new field to play on.
"This is a vital leg for us and we can still absolutely win this race especially when you've got a forecast like this. The boats haven't sailed in this much breeze and so boats will break. We're hoping we're not one of them, but boats will definitely break in those conditions. Or, you have to throttle back a long way.
"There's a lot of risk and reward on this leg. We understand the points, we understand the fleet's position and we have faith in our team and in our boat _ we're in this to win.''