The crew on Camper left their loved ones at the dock in Miami this morning and sailed out to meet Tropical Storm Alberto, hoping for a slingshot across the Gulf Stream into the Atlantic.
Leg seven of the Volvo Ocean Race got underway in a mild breeze but the six boat fleet are expecting the greeting from Alberto, the first storm in the 2012 hurricane season, to pack a punch - with winds up to 45 knots at its centre.
Abu Dhabi Racing, winner of yesterday's in-port race, led the fleet around the six-mile course to start the leg, but overall race leader Telefonica had assumed the job of frontrunner at the first position report at 7am (NZ time). Camper was in fourth, just half a mile off the pace.
Camper skipper Chris Nicholson says the conditions on this 3500nm transatlantic sprint could be ideal for the big red Kiwi boat, which has still to win a leg.
"It could be quite a quick trip. I think we'll see some fast days, but it's a good set of conditions and good forecast for this team and this boat. There's plenty of running on the cards and generally like that," he said before the boat left the dock.
"We're ready to give it everything and take the level of intensity up another notch or two."
A log-jam at the top of the leaderboard - with just 14 points separating Telefonica, Groupama, Camper and Puma - means the outcome of this leg could have a major impact on the overall outcome, Nicholson believes, with only three legs remaining in the race.
"It's vital that we are at or near the top of the fleet as it hits Europe. Anybody who isn't on the podium in Lisbon is going to have a big hill to climb to stay in contention. It's a big one," he says.
"Everyone can feel that the pressure is mounting on all the teams and that we're getting to the pointy end of the race. It's time for us to stay solid and for us to step up and deliver another top class performance."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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