Happiest CAMPER in town, says new boy Nick

© Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race
© Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race

Since watching Lion New Zealand race into Auckland from his father’s power boat during the 1985-86 Whitbread, CAMPER’s newest crew member Nick Burridge has dreamt of competing in the ocean race.

Like so many New Zealanders, sailing is in Burridge’s blood. Aged 10 he started sailing optimists and now, aged 30, he will race on board a Volvo Open 70 when he replaces injured bowman Mike Pammenter for the Leg 7 race to Lisbon.
As first reserve Burridge, also the team’s rigger, knew that one day he may get the call to action, so when he saw skipper Chris Nicholson’s name flash up on his mobile phone two days ago, he had an inkling that this was it.
This Friday Burridge will down tools at the team’s Miami shore base and make the long-awaited switch from shore crew to sailing crew to compete in his very first race with the team.
Is he nervous? Of course. Excited? Hell yes. But for Burridge this is the chance to not only fulfill his lifetime’s ambition, but to follow in the footsteps of Lion New Zealand hero Sir Peter Blake.
“It is my childhood dream,’’ he said. “For me it’s everything. Ever since I was out on my old man’s power boat, I think I was about three, and Lion New Zealand sailed into Auckland, you know, you kind of decide that’s what you want to do.
“I am really excited, but I’m most nervous about the in-port race. I haven’t sailed in this mid-bow position in a racing situation. I really hope we can get a good result, it would set me up really well mentally for the offshore.”
Burridge has plenty of sailing experience both with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and other campaigns including Leopard, Alfa Romeo and Investec Loyal in races including the Fastnet, Sydney to Hobart and Middle Sea Race.
But the 3,590 nautical mile race from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal will be the longest amount of time he has spent at sea racing.
“I really enjoy the offshore sailing, so the more time at sea the better,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of physical challenges involved, the excitement, sailing big waves. Some people are into parachuting, bungee jumping and I’m into sailing.”
Figuring out what to pack and particulars about the boat are now extracurricular activities for Burridge. Pammenter is scheduled to give him the rundown of several systems and shore crew manager Neil Cox is also set to impart knowledge.
“As far as the rigging goes, I know that like the back of my hand,’’ he said. “But inside the boat with water-makers, generators, the engine I haven’t paid a huge amount of attention to that.
“Previously, from sailing on similar keel boats you have an idea of how they work, but I definitely have to get up to speed over the next few days.”
While being the new guy on board has its pros and cons, Burridge reckons a definite advantage is that his body is fresh, unlike all of the Volvo sailors who have put their bodies through hell since the race started six months ago.
Everyday Burridge works out and at every opportunity he has worked out alongside his new teammates.
“I’ve had a lot more rest than the sailors have, they’ve not had a rest since China,’’ he said. “I’m feeling fit and good, so that will be an advantage. I think I’m the fittest I’ve been, I’ve been working pretty hard on it since January a year ago, just in case this opportunity came around.”
On the flipside, Burridge realises that joining the boys at the late stage of the race will have its drawbacks.
“They’ll be doing stuff where they don’t have to communicate with each other and I’ll be a bit behind on that, which might frustrate people, but I’m here to fill in for Mike and do the best I can.”
Doing his best is at the forefront of Burridge’s mind, especially with just 15 points standing between his team and Telefónica in first place on the overall leaderboard.
Burridge said giving it your all was not only his personal ethos, but also part of his team’s culture. Knowing that his team were primed for their first leg win was just added motivation, he said.
“I think everyone realizes that the top four have compressed a lot, Telefónica still have a small lead, but if we win this next leg and they get a third or a fourth then we’re in a great position to win the race,’’ he said.
“The result side of things has been on all our minds since we launched our boat in Auckland. With Emirates Team New Zealand being a big part of this team it’s all about results, you never do anything to come less than first place. We’re up there at the moment, but we’re not there yet and we have to work it.”

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