Fuente info NZ Herald
Yachting: Back to roots for Volvo
By Paul Lewis 5:30 AM Sunday Oct 17, 2010
It is 70-foot long, worth $7.5 million and could easily accommodate two whole America's Cup class yachts within its broad beam.
Camper, the Emirates Team New Zealand entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, is taking powerful shape.
There is every sign, too, that the mammoth yacht will make Team NZ and yachting fans happy campers.
Team boss Grant Dalton will use it to reclaim interest in yachting lost amid the America's Cup squabbles and bickering of the past three years.
When it is launched, scheduled for April, the VO70 yacht will undergo sea trials but its other early duty will be PR - a tour of New Zealand, starting in Dunedin towards the end of April and working up the coast.
"I can remember when we sailed on Lion in 1984, we did something similar," said Dalton. "People paid $2 to clamber all over the boat and get to know us and what it was all about. That was great and we want to do something a bit like that again - we want to get back to our roots."
At a sneak preview of the latest New Zealand entry to the Volvo round the world race (and the first Kiwi built and flagged entry since Endeavour in 1993), Dalton and Volvo skipper Chris Nicholson said they were keen to re-energise yachting and general sports fans whose interest waned as the America's Cup began less to resemble sport than an expensive divorce.
New Zealand's roots in the round the world yacht race are well-known and remembered. A nation thrilled to pictures of big yachts surfing down gargantuan waves; the spartan living conditions; and the sheer endurance feat of surviving the world's most troublesome oceans while racing flat out.
New Zealanders often enjoy and honour such ordeals of length - explaining the interest in triathlons, marathons and the like as competitors and/or spectators. Over the years, there was a huge following of duels like those between Steinlager II (skippered by Peter Blake) and Fisher & Paykel (Dalton) in the 1989-90 version.
Much has changed. Dalton won't be on board Camper and he recalls that the first Kiwi entry, Ceramco NZ, cost about $750,000 to build - compared to this year's boat which has an extra zero added to that figure.
Australian Nicholson will skipper Camper. A veteran of three Volvos, he first sailed with Dalton when the latter skippered Amer Sports 1 in 2002. In 2005-06, he was a watch captain on board ill-fated Spanish entry movistar, while in 2008-09, he was watch leader on Puma.
Puma finished second, although Nicholson was forced to stand down when he sustained an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament on the race's second leg in India.
"It was quite funny until the pain set in," Nicholson was quoted as saying at the time.
"My foot was out here sort of thing so my initial reaction was to push it straight back. The pain was intense. I was choking.
"The guys wanted to take me down below but I told them to put me on the sail stack so I could just look at the sky and breathe for five minutes.
"If I had gone downstairs, I would have been ill. So I stayed there for a while then they took my clothes off, put me in a bunk and gave me some drugs."
His experience with movistar underlined not only the importance of the design and build phases when producing a boat for the Volvo. It also underscored the fact that the race is downright dangerous.
Movistar was helping in the search for a yachtsman swept off another Volvo entry until it struck a small problem. Its whole bottom structure, including the keel, came off.
Nicholson had rescued matters on a previous leg when flooding left the sailors hip deep in water. He dived underwater and connected two emergency bilge pumps directly to the batteries, saving the boat.
The leak was fixed, temporarily, but there was no saving movistar the next time as the keel said farewell to the hull and water poured in.
movistar's crew were rescued by a yacht which had already found the body of Hans Horrevoerts, swept off ABN Amro II. The rescue and the presence of the body on board was a sober reminder the race can also be a graveyard.
"I took some pictures [of the boat]," said Nicholson, "and sent them back to the designers. There was a long silence."
Dalton said: "I can remember Shoeby [Team NZ's Kevin Shoebridge] being dragged out, with the entire wheel, off the back of the bus with his lifeline [in one race].
"All of sudden, no-one was steering the boat and we all thought 'shit' and tried to do something about it but we were all tethered and couldn't reach. The boat surfed straight down a wave, all by itself. You laugh about those things but it also makes you realise - it's a serious race."
Camper has a 31m mast, about the same height as the last America's Cup monohull yachts (which were up to 85 feet long but much more narrow-beamed than Camper). Its broad girth is designed to find the balance between the optimum amount of water contact, endurance and speed. It takes a crew of only 11, with four per watch. Dalton's verdict: "It's a big, powerful boat."
Dalton thinks two or three more entries might come into the VOR yet - although it is probably getting too late to build a new boat now (the race kicks off in Alicante, Spain, next October). The rest of the Camper crew will be announced in December.
"There could be seven or eight entries, about the same as last time," he said. "It won't be like the days of Steinlager and F&P because there is only one New Zealand entry but we are ... we are getting back to our roots."
By Paul Lewis