After being locked together in close combat for the stormy final 24 hours of Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, CAMPER managed to hold off PUMA by just 13 minutes to take second place at the end of the 1,940 nautical mile five-day sprint.
Ken Read’s PUMA had been in the driving seat for the majority of the leg before Chris Nicholson’s crew on CAMPER got the better of them in the last 500 nm to snatch second place and 25 points.
Despite his frustration with letting his rival past so late in the leg, Read saluted Nicholson’s opportunist move which netted CAMPER a five-point gain on PUMA in the overall standings and leaves them in third -- five points behind second-placed PUMA.
“Slipping up on CAMPER at the end was disappointing, but I give them credit for taking advantage of the one little slip up we made,” Read said.
Nicholson said CAMPER’s comeback from fifth earlier in the leg was a result of patience, taking their opportunities when they came and pushing hard in the storm system which battered the fleet on the final night.
“We were back a bit during this leg and we knew it would be tough to get out to the Azores with the jib reaching,” Nicholson said. “But then we knew there would be some chances in the low pressure.
Nicholson said balancing the need for speed with the risk of damaging boat and crew had been nerve wracking given some of the strongest winds and biggest waves the fleet have encountered so far.
“When you find yourself in 45-50 knots you’re just trying to make it through in one piece -- forget about the results, you just want to make it through the night, and we did with good speed,” he said.
On board footage from CAMPER of Nicholson being knocked from the wheel by a huge wave and having to scrabble to his feet to regain control as the boat careened down wind at high speed, demonstrates just how fierce the conditions got.
“Everyone’s saying they have never been this knocked around,” Nicholson said. “Last night we had a few moments where we were going at 38 knots down waves in the dark – that’s just not right.”
Read agreed that taking on the high winds and big waves of the low pressure system in the dark had been challenging -- particularly as a skipper responsible for the safety of his crew.
“We pushed the boat as hard as it could be pushed even in 50 knots,” he said. “It’s hard as skipper sailing into a low pressure system that you know is going to be brutal from a safety standpoint.
“There are always major fears in the back of your mind and that’s no fun. But at the same time you have push through all that stuff and just carry on.
Nicholson and Read were both impressed by the winning performance turned in by Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team, who pulled off their second leg win of the race in front of an ecstatic home crowd in Lorient.
“Good for them, they keep sailing fast and smart, that’s a deadly combination,” Read said.
Nicholson agreed the French team were strong in virtually every area and said he admired their gutsy performance in the big breeze of Leg 8.
They have got n great programme, great speed and nice tactics,” Nicholson said, adding: “I like it when they hang it out there.”
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- 19 Aug 2011Why sail strategy could hold key to victory
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