Volvo Ocean Race: Camper's boat race and a half to Fiji

Checking behind - Camper, sailed by Emirates Team NZ. 2011 Auckland-Musket Cove, Fiji Race

Camper, sailed by Emirates Team NZ had a real work-out on the final day of the Auckland-Musket Cove, Fiji Race.

The entry in the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race led the event for the first four days, and surprisingly managed to head off the ORMA60, TeamVodafoneSailing, which was expected to make a fast time of just two days or less to sail the 1,140nm course, and smash the race record.

Camper's reason for entering the race was to gain vital hard downwind sailing experience in the SE Trades, however light airs for much of the race put paid to that idea. Instead they got a real navigational and tactical work-out as they tried to stay out of the pot-holes in the fickle pressure systems, and then pushed hard downwind on the final day in the SE Trades.

Hamish Hooper, the on board media man for the Volvo Ocean Race writes:

Well that was a boat race and a half.

All day our positions and speed had us chopping and changing finishing positions with Vodafone. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that we eventually caught sight of them on the horizon off our stern.

I was given some words of wisdom early in the day from Grant Dalton: 'Remember this day. This is as good a sailing conditions as you will ever get, so think of this day when you are mid-race in the Volvo and are so exhausted, cold, and ground down that you are physically sick.' Which going by my performance early in this Fiji race isn’t too difficult.

I took his point, it was a great day’s sailing.

As the big red Trimaran’s size slowly grew so did the intensity on board CAMPER, the crew really switched into racing gear and it was a sight to behold.

We were flying along at over 20 knots, white water all over the decks and calls for sail changes seemingly every five minutes.

Vodafone looming - Camper, sailed by Emirates Team NZ. 2011 Auckland-Musket Cove, Fiji Race

I lost count of the number of times we changed sails- although I’m pretty sure we worked our way through most of the inventory.

From bow to stern the guys were pretty impressive to watch.

Daryl Wislang and Mike Pammenter on the bow, getting blasted by water like that from a fire hydrant- and loving every minute of it.

Andy McLean in the pit like the piano man looking like he was in the middle of a noodle soup there were that many ropes around him.

Salty (Rob Salthouse) was like a work horse hooking up sheets and changing them over frantically, almost preempting what he was about to be told from the back of the boat.

Chuny, well he just kept popping up everywhere - and seemingly always with Milky bars in hand.

Adam Minoprio was running around like he had just stepped off the beach, in saturated shorts, T-shirt and bare feet.
I was perched on the main grinder, while Trae (Tony Rae) t kept on barking, 'main on!' at me. Who knows what he meant? I just kept winding.

Stu (Stuart Bannatyne), Nico (Chris Nicholson) and Will (Oxley) were working out what seemed to be all sorts of mathematical equations of what sails to put up for sailing at what angle to get to the finish line ASAP.

Frantic finish - Camper, sailed by Emirates Team NZ. 2011 Auckland-Musket Cove, Fiji Race

Dalts was getting amongst it, and even Chris Cameron the team photographer was swinging of the stays like an excited monkey trying to get his shots.

In the end, we were ten minutes too late.

Stink, but what a buzz it was.

No time to celebrate. My first visit to Fiji is a fleeting one, all in darkness and not a foot set on land.

I did hear the customs official say ‘Bula’ as he stepped on board though.

That will do.

Off we go again.