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CampereditorialinterviewPanos DourosVOR 2011

Interview Neil Cox: "At the end of the day there is no boat you can't break… it's just as simple as that..."

Το είχα ανακοινώσει από καιρό ότι είχα μια συνέντευξη με τον shore manager της Camper αλλά δεν είχα προλάβει να την απομαγνητοφωνήσω και να την ετοιμάσω... 
Με τον Neil Cox, Camper's Shore Manager, στο γραφείο του... την πλώρη του σκάφους μερικές ώρες
πριν την εκκίνηση του 3ου σκέλους. © istioselida.com
Τα κατάφερα... πέρασαν βέβαια κάμποσες μέρες από το ταξίδι στο Abu Dhabi, αλλά ποτέ δεν είναι αργά... Άλλωστε τα όσα ενδιαφέροντα μας λέει ο Neil είναι πάντα επίκαιρα.
Για εμένα ήταν η καλύτερη στιγμή του ταξιδιού. Το πως οργανώθηκε όλο αυτό το έχω περιγράψει σε εκείνη τη σύντομη περιγραφή που είχα κάνει... και δεν θα ξαναρχίσω να φλυαρώ μη φοβάστε.
Το μόνο που θα σας θυμίσω είναι ότι η συνέντευξη έγινε μερικές ώρες πριν την εκκίνηση του 3ου σκέλους από το Abu Dhabi στη Sanya και έγινε πάνω στο σκάφος της Camper with ETNZ.
Διαβάστε τη συνέντευξη του Neil Cox, δεν την έχω μεταφράσει... επίτηδες μερικές φορές είναι καλύτερα να τα διαβάζουμε όπως μας τα λένε... τώρα όποιος θέλει να την μεταφράσει και να στείλει το κείμενο θα πάρει και τα εύσημα :)

ISTiOSELIDA: The racing story… we get it from everywhere, I was thinking that it would be interesting to tell us a little bit about what is going on behind the scenes… How do yo prepare the boat, How have you managed to come this far unharmed, etc.
Tell us things that we won't read at the press releases.

Neil: Ok mate, that's not a problem at all…

ISTiOSELIDA: First of all, introduce us yourself and tell what is your role here in Camper with ETNZ
Neil Cox τελευταίοι έλεγχοι πριν την εκκίνηση
© istioselida.com/Panos Douros
Neil: My name is Neil Cox, I am the shore manager at Camper with ETNZ. My history with the race is going long back, this is the 4th race I've done.
I did the last generation of the 60's and all three generations of the 70's. I was with SEB, ABN AMRO ONE, PUMA and now with CAMPER.
Basically I've seen the whole evolution of the thing, and that is important because we try to have a good handle of everything that is going on the race and on the boat.
Look at the evolution of the race. In the first race, I did, we had one container and we were building a tent beside the container to use as a sail loft and now look at all the bases, look what is going on...
And here at Camper we consider ourselves a pretty small "boutique" team comparatively with the others. We are only taking 4 containers around the world, and you look to some of the other teams and they take 6 containers and have whole workshops with them.
So look how the race has transformed, and we try to keep up, we try to transform ourselves from Corinthians yacht racers that go around the world to become more professionals… and when you want to be professional you have to look like and to act like on too.
I am telling you in that perception (the professionalism), F1 is actually the benchmark…
We are taking a lot of things, containers, people etc around the world representing our team, our sponsor or our country… and how well we look is also important with how well we are doing in the race.
An enormously big effort is going into that and the transition in 10-12 years is massive… and I think all these is for the betterment of the race.

ISTiOSELIDA: Looking the race now I agree it has evolved in terms of communication, marketing and the return of the sponsors investment… but in competition terms where it stands? Is it 6 boats enough?
Το εσωτερικό του Camper, © istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: Yeah, right now if you look at this race and consider what the world is going through for the last 18 months, with the financial crisis, the wars, piracy, etc I think is a classic situation of half full half empty glass…
Some people look at the race and say that there aren't enough boats, I actually look at it and say that the fact that we have 6 competitive boats in the race is a good think, considering the economical environment.
The fact hat we have 6 teams that doing their best with their budgets I consider it a credit to the race itself.
So you will think that in better times this number will increase. There is no reason why it shouldn't, I mean this is the best round the world yacht race there is…

ISTiOSELIDA: I was talking with Lusy (Lucy is the Media Manager of Camper ETNZ) on my way here about that, and I agree VOR is the best race in terms of marketing and media exposure… and also this race is a bit different from any other major event lets say America's Cup...
What makes this race so different from the other sailing races? 
Λίγες ώρες πριν την εκκίνηση © istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: It is accessible to anyone. None is too good to talk to anybody, all are friendly and open… We are accessible simple as that.
We are accessible to the public, we are accessible to the press, we are accessible to our sponsors, we are accessible to all the people one way or another are involved in the race. I think that makes the difference.
People that do offshore sailing are different... and in this race we have a Corinthian background… we have become a professional yacht race, but we still have some of the simplicity and accessibility of the old days.
People are easier to identify their selves, to see their selves, in us, in this race…

ISTiOSELIDA: Good answer Neil :) … Lets see now a few things about Camper, hopefully in the future, as you did in the past so far, you will have to damage in the boat. What are you doing different from the other teams…
How do you keep your boat in this condition, is is lack or something else?
Ποιος θα κάνει pit?  © istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: Oh, there is a bit of lack that we have come this far to the race problematic free, and touch wood we will continue.
I think that the first thing is that this is the 3rd generation of the boats… and also the skipper, myself, and a lot of the crew have done all three of them…
The other thing is that it comes down to good preparation from the beginning. We had a fantastic preparation in the sense of the design team we had… Botin, and the whole structural engineering team came from Team New Zealand and they all did such a good job.
The construction is superb, our boat is so much different from all the others, and also form the ones of the past. In my opinion is the next step.
Also we have a very good feedback from the the start and we were lucky enough to have a lot of time to test a lot of the boat and that gave us the confidence you need in this race.
We actually launched the boat and after 4 days we did the round of New Zealand… in this race we faced everything from 40knots upwind to 40 knots downwind…

ISTiOSELIDA: Yes I remember I was following that race… 
Όλα έτοιμα για την εκκίνηση © istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: I am telling you man, there were some pretty anxious moments there, everywhere we turned there was wind. In that regatta we learned a lot about our boat. You always wish you had more time and you always start this race feeling that there are more to do, and you always start with many uncertainties.
It's just the matter of things, but we are lucky enough we had no major issues. At the end of the day there is no boat you can't break… it's just as simple as that.
Now it comes down to crew handling, when they choose to throttle back and when they choose to... pedal to the metal… We have great experience to analyze these situations and to know what to do.
Experience and practice that is it. A lot of the skills of the race is not how to make your boat go fast, is actually to know when it is time to downsize sails, to throttle back a bit, so you would be in a position to accelerate when conditions allow it. You have to be sensitive with these boats.

ISTiOSELIDA: I see all the boats are different from each other, what are the major differences Camper has from the other boats?
© istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: You obviously have the three Juan K boats (Telefonica, Puma, Groupama) that even them are different from each other, so yes there are a lot of differences form one boat to another. We are basically different in geometry of the other boats, our keel is a bit forward, our daggerboards are different, even the position of the mast…
If you see all boats have obvious differences to daggerboards, to mast position, to masts (see Groupama), to rudders, to keels, to appendages… maybe the basic shape of the hulls is more or less similar, except the bow of Azzam, but is all other sections the designers and the teams are trying to make the difference. And of course there are a lot of variations in sails selections… Even the inside configuration is different…

ISTiOSELIDA: Which team you think has the best boat?
Neil: I think we have the best boat :)

ISTiOSELIDA: OK except from you :)
Neil: This is a fleet that every dog is going to have its day… so you cannot do the perfect boat that will sail at all conditions perfectly and cover all angles… Still we are very early into the race to say… Telefonica looks like it is very well balanced, it has a very good package and its fast at all angles.
The Groupama boat is just absolute freaking fast downwind… when they are in that angle they are steaming fast… actually at the Sarjah sprint they passed us from windward and the guys were saying the green train is coming through…

ISTiOSELIDA: Lets say Juan K's boats are fast downwind… What are Camper's strengths? 
Το εσωτερικό του Camper, © istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: You have to compromise something to get something from somewhere else and that's the case… We have put a lot of thought into our boat. You don't want to compromise to much… It's still very early so better not to say too much about that :)
Before the race you navigate to all conditions to try to learn your boat as much as you can, but it is always different from the actual race. We learned more in these 2 legs than the whole time of our preparation.
As much as I hate to say it, we are still developing the boat. That's the reality… and as much as we are motivated enough we will be developing the boat to the very finish of the race.
We acknowledge our weaknesses and we get on to solve them.

ISTiOSELIDA: How many days do you need to pack all these things? The boats are to leave in a few hours, what are you doing afterwards?
In a stopover even if it is short or long, this one is considered a short one, we generally try to bring the shore crew three days before that boats arrival. They need approximately 2 full days to get the base fully build and fully operational, from the water and electricity to Internet and the kitchen.

ISTiOSELIDA: You have a kitchen? 
Το εσωτερικό του Camper, © istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: Yes we produce out own food, we have 2 chefs with us that cook us… we are simple creatures just give us food water and we are happy… and they are doing a phenomenal job, we are very happy.
And by the 3rd day the boat comes in, but we in advance have the work list of the boat, so if something needs fixing we start preparing it before. We prefabricate stuff. We also have during the leg communication with the boat and we know what is going on, what are the damages… and if something needs manufacturing… well we do that stuff in New Zealand and we have guys that fly them between the stopovers. So that works pretty well.
And then basically, when the leg starts like today, all the airfreights are starting to get packed, we get ourselves in a position that at 11:00 we are all down the dock to farewell the boat and from then by 19:30 of the same day all containers are packed. The rib is the last thing that is pushed in before the final close. And by then everybody is going to have a nice dinner.

ISTiOSELIDA: All these just to unpack and pack your base, what's the story with the boat?
Neil: The Boat It's quite a turnabout, with the boat itself its a 5 days work. We need 5 days to do a complete check and service of everything onboard. The mast out, all the pins out too, all the keel system with its bearings, all the steering system is broken down… and then its a complete from bow to stern check of everything. Everything is serviced. In this race when you ask what should I do it now or leave it for the next stopover… you automatically answer your own question… you need to do it now.
So we have some good guys, we have 4 boat-builders, 2 sail-makers, 2 riggers, 2 for the electronics …

ISTiOSELIDA: So all in all how many are on the shore team? 
Το εσωτερικό του Camper, © istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: There are 11 tradesmen (craft persons), we have one logistic girl who runs everything in our office, a girl that looks out the camera stuff, and we have two girls at the kitchen…
What we have in the contrary with the other teams are a small efficient team, all in all we are only 26 people in the shore team. As I told you we are a boutique team… just keep it simple.
The thing is to get good people that do good job. You can imagine the amount of work you need to do to have the boat ready in just 5 days, and the thing is that you cannot rush things… they need to be done professionally.
And one other thing we do is to be very ergonomic. For example we put the mast on the boat while it is at the cradle so we are saving almost half a day, we save almost 12 hours by doing that.
If you have 10 stopovers it saves you a lot of time… 12 hours when you get it out and another 12 hours when you put it back…

ISTiOSELIDA: I see, tell me something else now what is the most dangerous job for the crew?
Neil: Just about everything when is windy and they go upwind, but mostly the bowmen.

ISTiOSELIDA: Now tell me what is the most difficult job onboard.
Neil: To be quite honest I must say the media guys, apart from what they are doing, which is difficult… you need to understand that all of them have sailing backgrounds and no to be allowed to help sailing its very difficult.
Also the skippers and the navigators, they have pretty hard times. Continuously they have to make decisions and they get to live with these decisions. If the decision is good everybody have smiles in their faces, every now and then you make a bad one and everybody is … you got to take the bad with the good.

ISTiOSELIDA: Finally I want to ask you a more personal question, how your family deals with all that time apart? 
Το εσωτερικό του Camper,
© istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Το εσωτερικό του Camper, © istioselida.com / Panos Douros
Neil: I guess, I am lucky because I am not married at all. But its tough. I spent about 10 days at home the last 2,5-3 years, you loose touch with the friends, the parents, its a bit hard.
But we like it. It's an interesting job, very full. At the end of the day you look at the 6 boats and there are only 6 shore managers… a small club and believe me there are many who would want to have our job.
In my job you need to make sure you understand the whole process. For me its a privilege to have this job… Time flies so quickly, I felt like it was 2 weeks ago when we were sailing in New Zealand… It's amazing how quickly it goes and before we will realize it we will be at Lorient… things run quickly.

ISTiOSELIDA: That was very interesting Neil, thank you very much… I've enjoyed talking to you!
Neil: That's alright! That was pretty good mate! Thanks!

"Coxy"Neil Cox (AUS) / Shore Manager

Neil Cox, or “Coxy” as he is more commonly known, has three Volvo Ocean Races to his name. His first race was in 2000/01 when he signed up with SEB.
His next Volvo role was as boat captain for the winning entry ABN AMRO ONE in 2005-2006, and he joins CAMPER from his most recent position as Shore Manager for PUMA during the last edition of the race.
Coxy participated in the 1995 America’s Cup with One Australia and was build manager and shore crew for Aloha Racing in 2000. He is an accomplished sailor having served as boat captain for the Maxi Z86 Windquest and has competed in many offshore and inshore regattas around the world.

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