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Waiting for CAMPER

 

 

“It’s a travelling road show where we have just a few days to service the boat before it heads off on the next Leg of the Race,” says Emirates Team New Zealand's CAMPER shore crew manager Neil Cox.

 

Coxie, as he is known, and his team of eleven staff travel to each of the Stopover ports, set up their mobile shore base and wait patiently for CAMPER to arrive.

 

“Within five hours of the arrival of the boat, the guys pull the rig (mast), move every bit of gear into a storage container, clean the boat inside and out, place the boat in a cradle, assemble scaffolding around the hull and then get started on the work list,”  says Coxie.

 

Permanent items on the work list at each Stopover are to remove and inspect the appendages (keel, rudder and dagger boards), service the canting keel apparatus, inspect, repair and test all the sails and tidy up the aesthetics of hull.

 

Perhaps the most critical task is an ultrasound scan on every bit of composite structure to detect hidden damage. After CAMPER was built by Cookson’s in Auckland, baseline datum was compiled for the entire structure of the boat. At each Stopover, ultrasound readings are compared to the baseline figures to determine if any area has been weakened or damaged in the punishing ocean conditions. Serious issues are repaired; minor ones are monitored and reviewed at the next Stopover.

 

The shore crew consists of boat builders, engineers, mechanics, sail makers, riggers and electricians. They all work from a mobile base that is cleverly assembled from four 40-foot shipping containers. Spaces are provided for a boatbuilding/machine shop, a sail loft and rigging shed, storage for food, supplies and electronics and an office that holds the team’s 8 meter inflatable tender during shipment. The mobile shore base can address about 98% of the issues that arise on Camper.  

 

“Because the boats get to the next port faster than the shipping companies, we have two entire mobile shore bases that leapfrog each other to every second port," says Coxie. As Auckland is CAMPER’s home base and marks roughly the half way point in the Race, Coxie was intending to use the Auckland Stopover as a major service point for the boat. But, due to the late arrival of the fleet and the busy schedule of in port activities, some of the work will have to wait.

 

During each Leg, the racing crew compiles a list of To Do items that usually numbers anywhere from 80-120 items. Tasks are coded from 1 to 4, according to importance,  with the Must Do items taking precedence over the Nice to Do items.

 

Coxie is confident that the shore crew can quite easily turn around the boat in five days. For the Auckland Stopover this will be compressed to just 60 or 70 hours. This means the shore crew will be working a minimum of 18 hours a day so that CAMPER can be back in the water for public viewing at 4.30pm on Wednesday 14 march.

 

“We all have the same hand to play with but all manage to get the work done. It’s a matter of setting priorities.” He feels more for the race crew who may only get a couple of days off before heading to sea again on the testing Leg 5 to Itajai, Brazil.

 

“The beauty is in the diversity," says Coxie. "You never know what you have until the boat arrives.”

 

Virtually all the shore crew has extensive sailing experience so they know what works. The entire CAMPER team learns a bit more about the boat on each Leg.

 

“The boat is constantly evolving throughout the Race,”  says Coxie. "My goal is to finish the race in as good or better condition than she was in Alicante.” 

 

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