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Volvo Ocean Race: Nicholson uses every weapon

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CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand are in a strong position as the fleet heads out across the Bay of Bengal, after Chris Nicholson (AUS) took the opportunity of a cloud line, which produced a 60-degree favourable wind shift, to tack north.

CAMPER is now the most northerly boat and to weather of the fleet, just 0.9 nautical miles behind leg leader PUMA’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA). This position will give Nicholson’s team a good angle into the entrance of the Malacca Strait, where an area of light wind exists and where the wind nearly always shifts to the east.

Nicholson is clearly using every weapon he has in his armoury to improve his position. It was a quick and decisive call to make, with very little time to move the sail stack to the new windward side. He is now in the position to decide when, on this part of the leg, to cash in his leverage and translate it to distance ahead, rolling over PUMA’s Mar Mostro and third-placed Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA) in the process.

“If it plays out as it should, the 10 miles of leverage that we have we should be able to convert into a couple of miles of lead in 900 miles’ time,” Nicholson said. Anything can of course happen between today and reaching the entrance of the Malacca Strait in two days’ time, however Nicholson is confident that his position is the one to be in.

PUMA’s Mar Mostro and Groupama 4 continue to follow a straight-line course with little or no deviation so far. Both Read and Cammas are intent on sailing as fast as possible towards Sumatra and only climbing upwind at the last minute, when the wind direction changes. They do, however, have to time this manoeuvre to perfection to avoid the light easterly wind that normally lurks over the Pulau We region.

The most southerly team, fourth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing with Ian Walker (GBR) are still in touch, just 10.70 nm behind Groupama 4, while in fifth place, overall leader Iker Martínez/ESP also took Telefónica up overnight, a hard decision to take, as it meant not sailing the direct line to Pulau We.

“We know that the lost miles to the finish will be important, but we’re hoping that it will be better for us when we arrive at the Malacca Strait in two days’ time,” explains the skipper.

Now in more wind, Telefónica is 17 nm astern of PUMA’s Mar Mostro and Martínez is able to steer in the direction he wants to go. “We are working hard to catch up to the boats in front and reduce the gap so that when we reach the unstable conditions in the Malacca Strait, we can get closer,” he said.

In sixth position, Mike Sanderson and his men on board Sanya have lost two miles in the last three hours.

Sailing conditions on the racecourse are near to perfect with warm air, warm sea and a relatively clear night sky lit by countless stars. Even the occasional downpour from a squall has been a welcome interlude allowing sweating bodies to be refreshed. However, the threat of fishermen using very long nets and lines is becoming more of a worry. Once entangled in a net, many precious miles are lost getting free.

“This morning has been all about playing ‘spot the fishing boat and its nets’, writes Hamish Hooper from on board CAMPER. “Remarkable, as these small, 30-foot barely seaworthy boats are about 300 miles from the closest land in Sri Lanka. There have been quite a few of them, so it’s eye to the horizon constantly,” he says.

Last modified on Thursday, 12 April 2012 14:18