Camper ready for opening round of Volvo Ocean Race at Alicante

Groupama Sailing Team finish the Alicante qualifying race.
Camper sailed by Emirates Team NZ's skipper Chris Nicholson (AUS) reflects ahead of the start of the first Inport Race of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante:

I’m writing this on the eve of the first in-port race, the eve of the first truly competitive event in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race and on the eve of the first occasion when all race entries go head-to-head on hostile terms.

Although the in-port races aren’t the 'bread and butter' of the race they are worth all important points – and in a race that stands to be as close as this one, that means all teams are deadly serious about giving them their all.

It has been pretty clear since completing Leg Zero that the entire fleet’s focus has gone towards perfecting in-port racing. We were probably all a bit rusty in this area and every one of us wants to make a good impact in this first shoot-out.

Aboard CAMPER, I’m pretty happy with where we are. We’ve put in some solid practice over the last few weeks and the guys are looking sharp. Ultimately, though we won’t know exactly what sort of shape we’re until we hit that start line on Saturday.

With the new in-port course designed for spectators with racing hugging the shoreline and with lots of manoeuvres such as mark roundings it should prove for exciting racing and exciting viewing.

It’s fair to say that the crews are extremely stressed during these races – throwing a high powered 70ft racing machine around a tight and sharp course is not an easy task.

In the last race we were allowed two extra crew for the inshore races. In this edition there are no such luxuries and we race with the standard offshore sailing team on an even tighter track. We have targeted to stay out of trouble in this race but that’s obviously a statement much easier to say than to do!

The start line is fixed so this means depending on the breeze we could have anything from an upwind to a dead downwind start. With these size monohulls and their speeds you have to have a solid game plan, but also the flexibility to change that plan in the last instant. Practically speaking this means that the team has to be able to do a range of very difficult manoeuvres at different rates of speed in tight spaces.

The guys are keen and ready for this race. We have been building up to it for a long time and I’m confident that, as a team, we are well prepared. The time for practice is over – we now want to deliver results.

Finally, congratulations to the All Blacks for lifting the World Cup last weekend. It was a great result and fantastic for the guys to see a fellow Kiwi sports team achieving the highest honour in their field.