(April 11, 2010) PUMA announced last week that it will participate in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 after placing second overall in the 2008-2009 competition. Led by skipper Ken Read in the last race, Read is again in charge of the
PUMA Ocean Racing team, and shares his thoughts here about the team, the lessons learned in the last race, and how they seek to improve for the next race.
The new route is what it is. Everybody has an opinion, but somebody else makes up the rules, and if you want to play the game, you abide by them.
I would say among the big changes is the leg from Cape Town to Abu DhabiÖ lord only knowsÖ I donít even know where to start about that leg. I donít think we are going to have USA 1498 on our sail for that route. Itís going to be interesting. I havenít talked to race management specifically about safety measures going up either past Somalia or Iran. It certainly isnít a very popular place in the world to go cruising, but at the same time, when we get up to the area where we are finishing, I havenít been there but I understand it to be just gorgeous. So part of me says this is a cool new adventure yet there is for now a slight amount of apprehension.
From there on, not having to go all the way north into the winter of China was obviously a pretty good move. Stopping half way in Auckland on what was a very long leg in the last race (from China to Brazil) was in my opinion a very good move too.
On picking Miami over Newport, I wouldnít be human if I didnít say I was disappointed by that, but PUMA purposely did not get into any of the politics of stopover decisions. We just decided that wasnít our game and for PUMA, it didnít really matter between Miami and Newport. In fact you could probably make a case commercially that Miami was better for PUMA. But at the same time, with PUMA being based in Boston, it would have been nice to have that hometown feel for both our sponsor and, of course, our program (the team will be training out of Newport). Sailing into Newport would have been a pretty fun experience. But, it didnít happen, thatís life, and we move on and try to turn Miami into a hometown feel.
You noted that your budget for the next race will be about the same as the last race. With the new route reduced from 10 legs as in the 2008-9 race to 9 legs for the 2011-12 race, will this change provide a cost savings for each team?
Well, I know that in the last race each stopover cost us a minimum of a quarter million dollars.
Other than the route, what are some of the significant changes made by the race management for this race compared to the last race?
The reduction of sails allowed will potentially make the boats a lot different to sail, and create some design challenges in creating the sail inventory. Then there are changes in how you can stack the sails, like in how you canít put stuff behind the back bulkhead (note: stacking of sails and equipment is restricted to the mid section of the boat below deck). I donít think the rules limiting the amount of testing days will change the race much, but there is now a total ban on two-boat testing (still to be announced, but no two-boat testing allowed any earlier than 8 weeks before the start date). This will keep a team like Ericsson from sitting on an island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, going out and testing all day, every single day (note: their training base was in the Canary Islands). I think this change is a good thing for the race. Very few people have the ability to do it, so why not get rid of it. And that is what they did.
When do you hope to launch your new boat?
This is another debatable question. This is the age-old battle of either giving the designers as much time as they want, which means you launch nine minutes before the start, or giving the sailors the time they want and launching three years before the start. Where is the happy medium? The designers are actually doing an analysis on how much extra work they could get done in a period of time leading up to the race. Once we get those facts we will be much better educated on when to make a decision to start the boat.