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Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand lead the Volvo Ocean Race

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand this afternoon was leading the Volvo Ocean Race fleet across the South China Sea.

Slamming into 4 – 5 metre seas, the lead was slim – just 2.4 nautical miles over second-placed Groupama. With almost 5000 miles to race before reaching Auckland, every little gain helps.

The position report puts Tealefonica third on the water 8.4 miles behind CAMPER, Abu Dhabi fourth at 9.2 miles, Sanya 12.3 and Puma 26.2.

Skipper Chris Nicholson said: “The aim this far out is to stay in touch with everyone… work the fleet and take small gains as and when the opportunities arise.

“So far no one has taken a flier and we all seem to want to go the same way.”

The start was unspectacular – the yachts gliding slowly on glassy water requiring extreme concentration to avoid the patches of dead calm. Crews knew it was not going to last.

The previous day’s racing was “suspended” by race organisers for 12 hours to avoid boat-breaking conditions in the South China Sea.

The early morning restart at Sanya got away slowly but the fleet, once out of the wind shadow of the high mountains of Hainan Island and into the South China Sea, encountered 4 – 5 metre seas.

It was back to wet weather gear and hanging on, with water gushing across the decks. The wind had dropped but the sea state left over from the storm was steep and confused. Weather forecasters are predicting that the seas will take longer to ease.

Sea sickness was common across the fleet and crew were clipped on and hanging on. It was difficult to keep their feet as the boats slammed off the waves.

The fleet is heading for the Straits of Luzon – the stretch of water between Taiwan and the Philippine Island of Luzon and out into the Western Pacific Ocean.

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