Chris Nicholson nominates the Volvo Open 70, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand, as his Coolest Yacht. This is the yacht he skippered to 2nd place in the 2011/12 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, setting a new 24-hour monohull record of 565 miles along the way…
“I’ve been fortunate to race on board and race against a great many boats I could nominate for my Coolest Yacht, but for me it would have to be the Volvo Open 70. And I if I had to narrow it down to one boat, it would have to be Camper, which I skippered in the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race.
“I first raced in the Volvo Ocean Race at the end of the Volvo 60 era, and then it was a quantum leap to the new Volvo Open 70. It started out with all the issues – with boats breaking and sinking and destroying themselves – to where we finally finally ended up with Camper in our last Volvo Open 70, where we had a boat where everybody on board needed to be at the highest level and at the top of their game to sail them safely and round the world. They were now the biggest challenge, and the most fun.
“Like in the Whitbread/Volvo 60s, the Volvo 70s had a rule where the more weight you could strip out, the more weight you had on the bulb. We thought that was ‘interesting’, even at the time.
“I’d come from the Olympic side of things, and I didn’t feel we actually needed to go to such extremes. Even on the 60s, some of the living conditions on board were quite barbaric – with zero comfort just because you could get an extra couple of grams on the bulb. It didn’t make sense, because you couldn’t sleep properly, because your bunks were so terrible. Your galley setup was so poor, you didn’t eat properly, and so it wasn’t faster. I’m grateful that we’ve reached a point where a bit more common sense has come through now.
“But by the third generation, with Camper, the VO70s were starting to make more sense in terms of how they were put together.
“Trying to keep them in one piece was still a challenge, and there were still breakages, but that was down to how powerful and how fast they were. Sailing them in the Southern Ocean, that was amazing. I remember seeing the footage afterwards and just going ‘wow!’. There were a real handful and we had some huge moments, but the thing was they just demanded the best people you can find on the on the planet, at the top of their game, and that was that was such a cool, cool group of people to be part of. Camper brought out the best in us.
“VO70s were an influential design in terms of creating this accelerated learning curve, bringing improvements that have found their way into other offshore boats, in terms of how to build them lighter and still keep them in one piece, and a lot of the ergonomics of how you would set them up down below for more comfort in harsh conditions.
“The knowledge and experience from Camper and those other big Volvo teams has spread out through the industry. You don’t realise until after it’s all over, just how good it was.”
Volvo Open 70 Camper stats rating:
Top speed: 39 knots
LOA: 70ft 6in / 21.5m
Adrenalin factor: 85%
Australian Chris Nicholson has competed in six Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Races, as well as two Olympics. In 2011/12 he skippered the Botin-designed Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand to 2nd, also setting a new 24-hour monohull record of 565 miles.
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