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Holy crap it’s wet and wild out here!

October 30th, 2008

I guess I am late in writing my obligatory- “holy crap it is wet and wild out here” blog.

Puma Ocean Racing

Well, first off it is windy and water is pummeling anyone on deck.  Average speeds in the 23 knot range means high speeds in the upper 30′s which we have had.  Will have to go back to the log to see if we have had any 40′s to date but I can tell you that things are moving along at a pretty good clip…

Many things have been interesting over the last few days.  We have sailed il mostro in some pretty breezy conditions pre-race but none at this fanatic pace.  To be sure this is an inherent problem of a one boat program – protecting the assets.  I always felt reluctant to press the boat 1000 percent in the pre-race practice because if something really bad were to happen to this boat essentially the race was over before it even started.  Not a very good scenario.  Plus there is the racing vs. practicing mentality. You can “think” you are pushing a boat hard when you practice but the fact of the matter it is that with a competitor next to you on in the same water you push much, much harder than in practice.  It is a fact of life.

This all leads back to where our program is at and something I have said earlier in this leg.  We are learning.  How hard is hard enough to push? How hard is too hard?  Fact is the guys on E4 have schooled us all in these conditions and my guess is they knew where there boundaries were better than we did.  We are finding them slowly, and a lot of it is getting used to the crashes and smashes that happen all around you 24 hours a day inside this base drum called a carbon fiber boat. It’s funny, as this leg has gone on the sleeping or even the concentrating was often interrupted by being acutely aware of new noises, loud bangs, creaks and groans.  Not to mention the occasional silence, followed by the tremendous CRASH of a hull falling into a wave trough out of thin air.  The first thought – “Are we pushing too hard and maybe risking the boat?”  Turns out, probably not hard enough.

The human psyche is a strange lot.  As I said, three days ago concentrating was tough as we sunk into this low pressure system and knew it was going to be a reasonably long and fast and furious ride.  No lie there.  But now things are different.  Three days ago what I cringed about is now what I crave.  I find that I can’t sleep now if the boat ISN’T smashing off waves or humming only as this boat hums when the boat speed goes past 30 because all those noises aren’t noises of possible problems any more.  They are the noises of FAST.  And to win this race will mean we have to get faster.

The Monster will find a way.

-Kenny

PUMA LEG ONE DAY 17 – Ken Read’s Blog

October 28th, 2008

“We are a bit lonely out here as for just about the first time this race we can’t see another boat.  E4 gybed and crossed our bow by about 20 boat lengths earlier this afternoon ending an incredible run of being neck and neck.  They are heading south presumably looking for more wind.  We kind of like where we are right now and decided to end our little boat on boat battle at least for now.  It is not easy predicting the weather situation right now, except for the fact that someone is going to turn the fans on pretty good for a few days.

Life on board is simple.  Go about chores, on watch, in bed, eat, and sleep.  Do it all over again.  A regime spoiled only by the fact that gremlins crawl into the complex boat systems from time to time and take the mechanically inclined completely off their schedule.  Which happened this morning but again Casey Smith helped de-bug and solve the issues, this time with the able assistance from Chris Nicholson.

For such simple looking craft, with zero interior amenities, its amazing how complicated these machines are.  Especially with modern age communication and our new and elaborate media station.  The computer-driven hydraulic keel system is just another example of something that can get full of gremlins and you wouldn’t know it until many times it is too late.  That is why guys like Casey and Michi Mueller and Nico (Chris Nicholson) are so crucial.

Essentially the modern day racer is also part electrician and mechanic and all around “McGyver”.  We’ve had a few cases during this trip, and I can’t tell you how impressive it is to watch these guys solve some issues that simply blow right over my head.  Thank goodness they were all around for the entire build of the boat.  In essence they also helped design the systems, which is one of the reasons why they are so comfortable with an issue that seems potentially so daunting to the non-mechanically inclined.  It is always hopeful that the gremlins don’t find the boat, but also somewhat unrealistic. Hopefully we can keep them away for the next few days though, or at least until someone turns the fans down a bit.

Kenny”

Ken Read – skipper

Rags to riches to rags, over and over again. The story of the world’s largest Doldrums.

October 21st, 2008

On board Il Mostro, October 21, 2008: It is well documented that this is my first Doldrums crossing–and of course my first equator crossing.  Yea yea, I know.  The antics of “King Neptune” are not far away now.  Casey Smith, Mickey Mueller and I have that to look forward to!  But, for the last couple of days or so it has felt like we would never get to those antics.  Light air running- just getting going, only to be smacked by a cloud that has no wind. Then a cloud with pressure giving you hope…then a clearing that brings slatting sails.  And on, and on, and on.

Early in the race we knew that this was going to be a major trap.  The Doldrums, as described by Capey (navigator) in his typical understated tones, were “unusually large”.  Which is translated to,” Holy crap, there isn’t any wind forever!”  Actually what he described is that the Doldrums are exactly where they usually are, and aren’t really that large, but there is a huge band of no wind to the north of the Doldrums making it seem like the world’s largest Doldrums.  And he was right.  So we entered in the lead with only our historical data and some pretty sketchy weather analysis and a prayer. Just hoping to get out within some shot at the lead, and not put ourselves in position to have to play a substantial catch up game on the next part of this race- which is notoriously hard to catch up in.  We aren’t out yet.  Capey figures 60 miles to go as I write this.  And our goal isn’t secured to get out within a shot of the lead either.  

Things are just now starting to become clearer though.  I think in this particular case it was certainly a disadvantage to enter this massive Doldrums in the lead.  A few of the boats had a nice shot at seeing our 3 hour position reports and seeing what the wind was doing with us, evaluating their weather files and deciding where to go next.  We always like the west, but to go there meant to jibe away from the entire fleet at one point and give up the lead for positioning sake- while still in the lead- a lead that we had just planned down the Atlantic Ocean to grab.  And there was certainly some of the old adage- “if you don’t have a clear picture- stay between your competitors and the mark”.  Well, we ended up losing the lead by being too tactically conservative at the front end of the doldrums.  In the Green Dragon’s case, they did a really nice job- back a hundred miles at one point, sailing right around the fleet to the west.  Same thing with Ericsson 4, who after dropping off Tony for medical help found themselves a ways back and also boogied to the west.  We got to the west finally as well, although a little late.  Hopefully this strategy will inevitably pay off for us over this last 60 miles.  I will tell you it is no fun seeing a particular 3 hour boat position reports and finding out that by sailing sideways on the race track to get to the west, you actually gained little to no ground toward the mark and lost 15+ miles to most of the other competitors each time we did it.

All for the end game though.  And in this case the end game is getting out of this bear trap called the “extended” Doldrums.  And we don’t even know for sure if this will work yet in the end!  Did I mention that it is pretty hot as well?  

We are working hard to keep things loose on the craft.  It’s pretty easy to do when sailing with some of the most sarcastic people on earth- makes it quite enjoyable actually, especially during trying times like “massive doldrums” and a bad position report or two.
I bet all of you at home are tearing your hair out watching this unfold. Believe me- I know exactly how you feel!  Hopefully the next writing can come from il mostro with a bit more conviction and normalcy.  Dear Lord I hope so!

-Kenny

PUMA takes the lead on Day Five of Volvo Ocean Race

October 15th, 2008

October 15, 2008 – For the first time during the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09, PUMA have taken the lead. Since leaving Alicante, Spain, on Saturday and racing out of the Med en route to Cape Town, South Africa, the top five boats in the fleet have been constantly changing places. By choosing a fast route through the Canary Islands, sailing close to the African shore, the PUMA team today moved into the lead for the first time during leg one of this epic round the world race.

Sailing in strong trade winds with speeds of over 20 knots, PUMA are currently engaged in a tight tussle with Ericsson 4 at the head of the fleet. The tactical choices made aboard each boat in deciding which route to take, will result in obvious gains and losses for each team. More than ever, the PUMA Ocean Racing team will be looking to squeeze every inch of speed out of the boat that they can, to extend their lead.

The mood onboard is positive, with all minds concentrated on the job in hand. Skipper Ken Read commented from the boat early this morning: “I was just told that the TP 52 World Championships [an in shore event] are going on in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands right now.  Not only did we just sail right past that island, but did so in the middle of a gybing duel with Ericsson 4, with them about two boat lengths ahead of us at times. No matter how close the boats racing in the TP 52 event are, my guess is that there won’t be any tighter racing than the racing Ericsson 4 and ourselves are having right now.”
“As they zig zagged all over the lot trying to prevent us from passing us, we decided to set up about a mile to leeward, trying to sail our own angles and see if we can boat speed them and finally break through. For sure there isn’t much in it. Very fun though. Doesn’t make for much sleep, that is for sure. Honestly, I thought the racing would be close but this is ridiculous!”

“Besides that, it is business as usual…lousy food, smelly guys, getting fire-hosed on deck and sleeping inside a base drum with someone relentlessly beating on it 24 hours a day.  There’s nowhere would we rather be right now.”

Current Position:
1st Place
Distance to Leader: 0 nautical miles
Distance to Leg Finish: 5436 nautical miles
Miles covered in last 24 hours: 384 nautical miles

To track PUMA live online, go to: http://www.traclive.dk/events/event_20081011_VORLeg1/

The Volvo Ocean Race is made up of ten legs, finishing in June 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The fleet is expected to finish the first leg of the race, in Cape Town, around 3rd November.

By joining the race, PUMA has entered a new premium category and is the only Sportslifestyle company to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. For more information about the race, team and the PUMA Sailing collections, please visit www.pumaoceanracing.com
 

PUMA Ocean Racing makes outstanding start to Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

October 11th, 2008

Alicante, Spain, October 11, 2008 – At 14.00 (local) today, the PUMA Ocean Racing team stormed across the start line of the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. In winds of over 25 knots and stormy seas off the coast of Alicante, Spain, skipper Ken Read and his team aboard PUMA’s il mostro sped round the first two marks of the course before heading off over the horizon en route to Cape Town, South Africa, in second place. Thousands of spectators lined the sea wall in Alicante to watch as these incredible boats began their long journey 37,000 miles round the world.

Having waved an emotional goodbye to family and friends on the dock this morning, the eleven crew on board il mostro – ten sailors and one media crew member, who will document life onboard as the race unfolds – prepared themselves for a 6,500 mile leg to Cape Town. Expected to take around 23 days, the fleet will sail westwards out of the Mediterranean Sea, and then down through the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Town, crossing the Equator as they go.

After a great start, the PUMA Ocean Racing team aboard il mostro had a gruelling first few hours, rounding the first mark of the course in Alicante Bay in second place behind Swedish boat Ericsson 4 and storming back down towards the second mark. Impressing the crowd with visually stunning huge bright red sails, Ken Read and his team treated the spectator boats to a fine display of boat handling as they sped off at speeds of up to 24 knots.

PUMA Ocean Racing skipper Ken Read commented on the dock this morning: “Today is very special for us, it’s the end of two years of incredible preparation and hard work to bring us to where we are right now. It’s not the perfect Spanish weather we expected for the start of the race, but it’s time for us to get out of here.

I can’t say enough about this whole team, everyone involved in the PUMA Ocean Racing team as well as all the folks at PUMA, they have been magic to work with. I hope we can put on a good show out there. We just need to get through the night, and then we’ll have a nice ride down to Cape Town. We’re looking forward to seeing you there.”

The Volvo Ocean Race is made up of ten legs, finishing in June 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The fleet is expected to finish the first leg of the race, in Cape Town, around 3rd November.

By joining the race, PUMA has entered a new premium category and is the only Sportslifestyle company to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. For more information about the race, team and the PUMA Sailing collections, please visit www.pumaoceanracing.com
PUMA Ocean Racing Sailing Team List, Leg One, Alicante – Cape Town:

Ken Read, 46 (Newport, RI, United States) Skipper
Andrew Cape, 43 (Lymington, Hampshire, Great Britain – originally AUS) Navigator
Michael “Michi” Müller, 24 (Kiel, Germany) Bowman
Rob Salthouse, 41 (Auckland, New Zealand) Trimmer
Casey Smith, 29 (Brisbane, Australia) Bowman
Jerry Kirby, 52 (Newport, RI, United States) Bowman
Jonathan McKee, 47 (Seattle, WA, United States)Trimmer/Driver
Justin Ferris, 32 (KeriKeri, New Zealand)Trimmer
Sidney Gavignet, 39 (Paris, France) Watch Captain
Chris Nicholson, 37 (Belmont, NSW, Australia) Watch Captain
Rick Deppe, 44 (Philadelphia, USA, originally UK) Media Crew Member

Podium position for PUMA Ocean Racing in first day of Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009

October 4th, 2008

Alicante, Spain, October 4, 2008 – Ken Read and the PUMA Ocean Racing team today scored a podium position in the opening day of racing in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. Two in port races were sailed in 8-9 knots of wind off the shores of Alicante, Spain. Finishing sixth in the former and second in the latter race, the team aboard Puma’s il mostro have secured third place overall in the race standings ahead of the first leg to Cape Town, which begins next Saturday.

After a tricky first race, the PUMA Ocean Racing team aboard il mostro – ‘the monster’ – showed what they were really made of in the second. Narrowly missing out on first place after being overtaken by Spanish boat Telefonica Blue on the final leg, il mostro flew round the course stunning the crowd with their sheer speed and power upwind using a huge new sail – the ‘Code Zero’.

With an audience of thousands lining the shores, and hundreds of spectator boats crowding the racecourse, the atmosphere in the race village was buzzing. In port racing will be conducted in seven ports of the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, and count for points towards each boat’s overall score in the race. Whilst contributing a relatively small amount to the overall score in comparison to offshore legs which will cover thousands of miles, the PUMA Ocean Racing team will now go into the first leg of this epic 37,000 mile race with a positive mindset.

PUMA Ocean Racing skipper Ken Read commented: “Finishing on the podium was the goal that we set ourselves aboard il mostro for today, so we’re really happy to have achieved that. Our first race was pretty ugly; we didn’t have a great start and then just sailed into a hole, but the second race was great.  We got a nice puff [of wind] on the first beat, and got ahead of the fleet. Whilst Telefonica Blue overtook us on the final leg, finishing second, and to be lying in third overall tonight, feels really great. I will say however, that today we really only saw light winds, it’s when we’re offshore we’ll really see what these boats are made of.”

The first leg of the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race will begin on Saturday 11th October 2008 from Alicante, Spain, taking the fleet 6,500 miles to Cape Town, South Africa. The Volvo Ocean Race is made up of ten legs, finishing in June 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

By joining the race, PUMA has entered a new premium category and is the only Sportslifestyle company to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. For more information about the race, team and the PUMA Sailing collections, please visit www.pumaoceanracing.com

PUMA Ocean Racing Sailing Team List, In Port Race, Alicante:

Ken Read, 46 (Newport, RI, United States) Skipper
Andrew Cape, 43 (Lymington, Hampshire, Great Britain – originally AUS) Navigator
Michael “Michi” Müller, 24 (Kiel, Germany) Grinder/Sewer
Rob Salthouse, 41 (Auckland, New Zealand) Pit
Casey Smith, 29 (Brisbane, Australia) Bowman
Jerry Kirby, 51 (Newport, RI, United States) Bowman
Jonathan McKee, 47 (Seattle, WA, United States)Tactician
Justin Ferris, 32 (KeriKeri, New Zealand)Trimmer
Sidney Gavignet, 39 (Paris, France) Trimmer
Chris Nicholson, 37 (Belmont, NSW, Australia) Main
Andrew Taylor, 45 (Valencia, Spain – originally NZ) Grinder
Shannon Falcone, 27 (Valencia, Spain – originally ANT) Grinder

PUMA’s il mostro given rapturous applause in Alicante

September 20th, 2008

 PUMA Ocean Racing participates in the opening ceremony for the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009.
 Puma Ocean Racing Team

Puma Ocean Racing crew sporting the SLS Performance Polo

Alicante, Spain, September 20, 2008 – PUMA Ocean Racing joined the seven other teams in the opening ceremony festivities for the Volvo Ocean Race last night.  The crowd in the Port of Alicante were introduced to Puma and gave a warm welcome for il mostro and her crew.  The team will remain in Alicante through October when the race begins with the In-Port and Pro-Am Races on October 4-5.  Leg 1 of the 2008-2009 edition of the race begins on October 11 when the team leaves for Cape Town, South Africa.

Photo Credit: Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing

12 Men In a Raft

September 19th, 2008

PUMA Ocean Racing successfully completes Safety Training School

Puma Ocean Racing Safety Training
I couldn’t say with any certainty how much time had passed since the MAYDAY and subsequent ABANDON SHIP call had gone out.  But there I was standing there in my survival suit, waiting to jump into the icy water below, knowing that we would have to form a safety circle and take a head count before swimming crocodile style to our life raft.  This was a daunting task and the crew knew that by the time we got to the life raft we would be exhausted.  
As night fell, one of our big guys, Shannon Falcone was able to right the raft allowing us to climb in as per our training.  Skipper Ken Read then called for another head count.

1 Kenny shouted

2…Jerry Kirby bellowed

Then silence…where’s 3?…It’s Michi someone yelled…Louder Michi!!!…sree (three in his German accent)…said Michi in the quietest shout I have ever heard

4…Capey…

5 Justin…on and on through the entire crew.  

Sidney Gavignet is number 10, one before me.  When it came to my turn I prepared to belt it out big time but couldn’t tell if it came out as a roar or a whimper…11.  The noise of the wind inside the raft was deafening.  Thunder and lightening was all around us and the sky filled with huge flashes of light.  The water inside our raft was already ankle deep from the waves washing in over the side, and the rain seemed to find its way in everywhere.  This sucks I thought.    

And finally number 12, Shannon, our extra man was safely onboard.  Relief, all twelve members of PUMA Ocean Racing accounted for and present.

Thankfully, this wasn’t for real but was in fact the PUMA Ocean Racing team completing the two day Volvo safety course in the UK alongside the Irish Green Dragon team.  

As Volvo Ocean Race sailors, we take safety very seriously and the events of the last race are never far from our minds. We’re fully prepared for the worst, but I hope we never have to put our skills to use.

-Rick Deppe

Photo Credits: David Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race

Puma Ocean Racing Crew Member Michi Mueller Interview

September 15th, 2008

Puma Ocean Racing Crew Michi MuellerToday, Ken Read set me the seemingly impossible task of interviewing Michi Mueller.
My brief, get up close and personal with our quiet but very talented crewmate
I hope I succeeded.
RD: So Michi, an eight day Transatlantic crossing – not bad in a mono-hull – you musthave had perfect conditions. How was the trip for you?
MM: Great
RD: You told me earlier that you’ve done this trip twice before. How did the brilliant sailing conditions experienced by il mostro, with back to back high mileage days in great reaching conditions, compare to previous Transatlantics that you have done on other boats? I think you mentioned Newport to Cuxhaven Race? (Shakes his head a little)
MM: Ok, pretty easy (mumbles something into the wind that I don’t catch)
RD: You came to the team from the America’s Cup arena where sailing is very different. Volvo sailors usually have a pretty strong skill set, as well as practical sailing skills, how would you describe your role on the boat?
MM: I grind
RD: I know you do more than that because I’ve seen you all over the boat. Anything else?
MM: Some trimming, maybe drive a bit
RD: So how does a typical 4 hour watch go down for you?
MM: Mainly grinding
(Thinking to myself – OK, OK, this is all good stuff, it seems pretty straight
forward…how hard can it be?)
RD: So Michi, the race village opens soon and the other team will all be here by then, any nervousness about the race?
MM: Not really
RD: Would it be accurate to say that you are the Rookie on the team?
(looks slightly uncomfortable then shrugs)
MM: Maybe
(Thinking to myself again, this is harder than I though…I need some help here…)
RD: Michi you’re German right? Has there been a language barrier for you on the multinational PUMA team?
MM: It’s harder for the Kiwis
RD: Michi, that reminds me. You told a great joke the other day. The one about Velcro gloves being New Zealand’s most popular sex toy! That was pretty funny.
MM: Yes
(IDEA…I know how to get something out of him)
RD: You found out recently that you will be joining every other person on this boat by becoming a Dad soon, how does that make you feel?
MM: Best news I ever got
RD: You don’t say much do you Michi??!!??…
-Rick Deppe

PUMA Ocean Racing – Transatlantic Debrief

September 8th, 2008

September 6, 2008

Puma Ocean Racing
Even after only 10 days at sea it’s amazing what a shower, shave and real meal will do for
your soul.
We have arrived at Alicante, Spain, the final destination prior to the start of our great
journey. Alicante is a little over 300 miles up the Mediterranean from the Rock of
Gibraltar.
Our last 24 hours was fast and fun. Downwind in 20-33 knots of breeze through the
night, caught out with all the big gear up from time to time. Yikes! Several sail changes
and lots of high speed sailing. Getting used to the speeds is a big part of our training and
we certainly got that checked off on this transatlantic adventure. Also, we arrived nearly
a day and a half ahead of schedule, making Kimo (Kimo Worthington, GM of PUMA
Ocean Racing) and the operations folks scramble a bit for hotel rooms. But, they pulled
it off as always.
Our trial leg certainly wasn’t without excitement from time to time. We snapped a canard
- check that – we snapped both canards on unidentified objects. Not exactly the best way
to get us to sleep soundly at night as there is certainly a lot of uncertainty in these vast
oceans. We are quite sure that both mishaps happened on objects – not marine life, so
our Save the Whales friends need not come knocking on our door.
The crew was put to the test and passed with flying colors. We had several different
conditions that proved invaluable in preparing us for the real game.
So where does that leave us? Work lists are being created and a final re-build of the boat
is in progress as we speak. Our shore base (base one was packed up in Newport and
shipped directly to Cape Town) is buzzing with excitement as the shore team gets the
boat back and they, with the help of the sailors, get things in order. We’ll get safety
courses out of the way soon and then the team will have a few days off. After a short
break it’s right back at it to do final checks on race sails which are on their way to us from
North Sails.
Finally, one very interesting part of this race is clearly going to be the 11th crew member
or the media member as Volvo calls it. I have always been a bit squeamish about
watching those reality shows that essentially stick a camera in your face at any
inopportune time and hope you freak out or cry or say something that will embarrass you
forever. Well, I (we) are now living in this reality world and I really think that the sport
could get a huge shot in the arm from it. Ricky Deppe is really doing a great job, and I
am sure that there are several other good cameramen in this race. These guys should be
able to show an aspect of our sport the world has never seen or even imagined. But,
getting used to that camera constantly lingering about is a bit disconcerting. I guess what
I am trying to say is that I apologize in advance for all the dumb stuff I will be doing in
front of the unseen camera for the next 9 months. And I extend that apology from the
rest of sailing team.
All in all, everything is a great here and we have successfully gotten to a major time in
the young life of PUMA Ocean Racing. Soon the real test begins. Stand by.
-Kenny

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