Camper. Photo / Ian Roamn / Volvo Ocean Race
Criticism from Team New Zealand head Grant Dalton over Camper’s performance in the Volvo Ocean Race has fired up the crew as they prepare to embark on leg four.

The fleet sets sail from Sanya, China tomorrow bound for Auckland.

The leg is a crucial one for Camper skipper Chris Nicholson and his crew as they look to bridge the gap on overall race leaders Telefonica, who stretched their advantage to 15 points after their third straight leg win.

Team New Zealand are in second place having consistently produced podium finishes, but the team regarded by many as pre-race favourites have yet to win an in-port race or offshore leg.

The fiercely competitive Dalton has made no secret of his displeasure at Camper’s performance, telling the Herald this week he had concerns over the tactical errors made.

Changes have been made to their decision-making process on board, while Dalton called in Emirates Team New Zealand sailing coaches Rod Davis and Joe Allen to help the team sharpen up on their in-port racing.

Nicholson said the extra measures are not a case of Camper hitting panic mode, but a commitment to improve.

“We probably review our performance more than any other team and will continue to do so because we’re looking to get absolutely everything we can out of this boat, this team and this project.”

While Nicholson acknowledges the need for his team to improve, he believes his crew should not be wholly disappointed with their efforts to date, particularly with the best sailing conditions for the boat in front of them.

He said the next two legs should favour Team New Zealand more, given their speed downwind. But with boat-breaking conditions forecast to greet the fleet at the start, the journey to their home port will be far from comfortable.

Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante is forecasting a monsoon to develop to the north of Taiwan resulting in north-easterly winds of between 35 and 40 knots across the South China Sea over the weekend.

Infante says Sanya Bay’s protection from the monsoon by mountains should mean conditions for today’s in-port race will be perfect with moderate winds and flat seas. Offshore it will be a very different story when the fleet sets off for Auckland tomorrow, potentially requiring the teams to resort to survival techniques to protect their boats from the huge waves.

Camper are confident their boat is better equipped to handle it than most after extensive pre-race testing in rough conditions. But navigator Will Oxley said the team’s motivation to win the leg in to their home port won’t put them in danger of pushing their boat too hard early on.

“It goes without saying how much we want to win coming in to our home port. I keep thinking it’s like the Rugby World Cup, when you’re in your home turf hopefully you find something that extra bit special to make it work …”

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