Volvo Ocean Race: CAMPER sails on 2000-mile qualifier + Video

Camper Wellington to Dunedin - Camper’s Tour of New Zealand

The Volvo Ocean Race yacht CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand sailed this morning from Lyttelton on a 2000-nautical mile voyage to qualify for the Volvo Ocean Race.

Wrapping up successful shakedown voyage off the east coast on New Zealand, which included visits and public open days at five ports, the 70ft yacht and crew of 11 are now in 'race mode'.

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand VO70 yacht during it's visit to Lyttelton. Naval Point yacht club members go for a sail. 7/5/2011
Skipper Chris Nicholson said this morning that the trip will take a minimum of six days. 'We are heading north-east from Lyttelton and we’re expecting to be on the wind to Auckland. A large low pressure area is developing in the Tasman Sea and we’re keeping a wary eye on that.

'It could make things very interesting as we get closer to Auckland.' The crew has already sailed CAMPER in strong winds and big seas in the three weeks since it was launched. Rounding East Cape on the way from Tauranga to Gisborne they encountered 35 – 40 knots on the bow with big seas.

Nicholson said he had heard about East Cape’s fearsome reputation and it certainly lived up to that. 'We came through that night in really good shape.... it was a very good test of both the yacht and crew. We had a little damage that was repaired next day at Gisborne.'

The crew has a lot of sail testing to complete en-route to Auckland. That means a lot of sail changes and manoeuvres that will involve everyone on deck during daylight.

Emirates Team New Zealand’s meteorologist Roger Badham says the breeze will be soft around New Zealand today but there’s a great deal of breeze coming from the west and it will be all over NZ at the end of the week and into next week.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker visits the CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand VO70 yacht during it's visit to Lyttelton. Pictured here left to right Dean Barker, Bob Parker, Chris Nicholson and Kevin Shoebridge. 7/5/2011
'From Lyttelton navigators Will Oxley and Andrew McLean have options of heading north-east, north-west (sailing through Cook Strait and out into the Tasman), south-west and south-east. With the gale force winds coming, anywhere to west is not really an option. It’s a 2000 mile qualifier, not a boat breaking exercise,' Badham said.

'Lows in the Tasman make it difficult to find any runway, except going upwind in 30-40 kts. They could head away to the south-east towards Cape Horn and make very good progress – but they have to come back as well!

'So heading north-east is the only real option. It offers a variety of conditions so they can sail test as well as sail the miles. There is a high pressure ridge out to the east and that can hopefully offer both upwind and downwind conditions in a variety of wind speeds from 10 to 20 knots. The aim is to try to be back in Auckland in seven days – so Auckland eta Sunday night or Monday.'

CAMPER spent the weekend at Lyttelton. The yacht was open to the public on both Saturday and Sunday. The rain and chill breeze on Saturday did not deter Cantabrians from visiting the wharf and sailing and shore crews worked hard to make sure everyone got on board.

Sunday dawned fine and warm. The boat was open for six hours and capacity crowds turned up.

For Emirates Team New Zealand the turnout was a welcome endorsement of New Zealand’s return to round-the-world racing for the first time since Grant Dalton’s New Zealand Endeavour in 1993-94.