Team Vestas Wind skipper Chris Nicholson talked to Sail-World.com, providing this update as the countdown to Lisbon clicks on for the Danish Volvo Ocean Race team pushes on in the repair process, as Nico and his crew work towards the Portuguese start line.
‘I’d have to say that on the critical path we vary between plus or minus three days. I think if you could look back at Christmas time and say that we would be where we are now, you would say that it would be quite acceptable, but you know we are desperate to try and get a little bit in front of the schedule.
‘Normally you have some sort of a buffer zone in your schedule and in your planning, but we don’t have any and we are right on the limit as such, trying to get this done.
‘For us sailing time is going to be an issue ahead of the Lisbon start.
‘How much we get depends on if we can get that little buffer in the schedule that I am after. We obviously have to have some… we have to prove that the boat is reliable. I don’t have any doubt that the boat will be safe but it is still something we would like to go out on, prior to racing and take off. So, we do need a few days of sailing. And we need the boat to come out of the shed and be commissioned in the right manner… as in it comes out pretty much ready to go, rather than a boat that could come out that you know has bugs that would take days and weeks to iron out. We can’t afford that.
‘We’ve had to make some big commitments to say that we are doing Lisbon and to push the schedule that way. We really need this to work, and if it does we can shine a light in regards to the effort and the commitment that everyone has made, both the sailing side, both Vestas and Volvo Ocean Race.
‘Right now we are in the hands of the Italian builder Persico, I am very impressed with their level of management of the project, they have very competent workforce… I think it’s clear, obviously, why they are one of the top builders in the world.
‘They made a commitment to us, to get this done and that’s what we needed, we needed a builder that was going to step above a normal build regime to get it done in time.
‘It won’t really be until we get to Lisbon that people will open up and say how difficult and how ambitious it was. And when they do, the builders do and the rest of us say that, then people might understand just how difficult it has been.
‘Looking at the last two legs. There are only going to be maybe two areas where we can get an advantage and most of the others would be at disadvantage and we are obviously going to be at a disadvantage because the guys are sailing and faster than ever before. That’s a major worry for us. We’ll come back fitter and stronger than where we were at week one, and we’ll come back with newer sails then the rest of the team, but that’s it, there are only two advantages, everything else is a disadvantage, so, we can’t change anything else. We are trying to get back fit and strong and smart and with a boat that is well prepared.
‘Watching the race, I have been impressed at how close it is. And also, you can see it is when it’s true good one design racing, it’s the little mistakes that are really expensive as well and that is actually poisoning to see that.
‘Our problem is the crews are all admitting it themselves, that they are sailing the boats vastly differently to how they thought the boats were needed to be sailed at the start, be sailed fast, so we don’t have that knowledge and it is hard to get without just having been there and done them all.
‘One thing that we are very grateful for is the level of Vestas support. It’s been amazing to date what they have been able to withstand, it’s been extremely difficult on them. This wasn’t something even remotely envisaged that could happen.
‘So now the deck and hull are together, the sailing team has to put their head down and getting on with the job and get the job done, like even small jobs, no job is too small to do, while we can. We just can’t afford to have the boat in Lisbon not ready to sail.’
‘Everyone knows that competing in the Volvo Ocean Race is a difficult undertaking but I am just amazed at how Vestas been able to cope with it and persevere. If it wasn’t for their perseverance we wouldn’t be in the position to get back in the race in Lisbon.
‘I know a lot of teams in the past that would’ve collapsed under the pressure and strain of what was going on.
‘We are very thankful and we hope that we could turn this around into a great Vestas story in Lisbon.’
‘We look forward to seeing you all in Lisbon!!’
by Rob Kothe