Volvo Ocean Race Update from the Mar Mostro’s Skipper

Update from the Helm
Leg 6, Finish

Wow. The only word that comes to mind.

The last couple days were so stressful that I completely forgot to give you my wrap-up. Sorry about that, but please understand…CAMPER was relentlessly breathing down our necks right to the very end – and they are a complete pain in the ass!!!!! And also please understand that I say that as a compliment with the highest regard for how they sailed this leg.

There are legs that are physically grueling. This was not one of those legs. But it certainly made up for it in the mentally grueling category. Tom Addis was really on top of his game this leg. I think he and I are working better together each leg, and it shows with confident placement on the race track, and certainly there’s faith in the team and the boat to win a type of race that is such a grind.

I can only equate what I am trying to say to an American football analogy. Some teams like to play shootout style games, trying to score a million points by throwing the ball all over the field to win. A pretty risky strategy, but when it works you sure look good. Other teams don’t mind playing defensive-minded games – they’re always close but you think you have the horses to win, the “keep it close to the vest” type games. We certainly played this last leg in the latter. Defensive when we could be, and rely on the boys and the boat to win the close game.

What is the drawback of this style? Well, by keeping it close we are clearly giving our friends, family and fans anxiety beyond belief. Some of the emails I get after legs are amazing. One said, “Please don’t continue racing like this as you almost gave my 77-year-old mother heart failure…who is a massive PUMA fan btw.” Another elegantly proclaimed, “Holy #%!@…what a great job. I am &^#$-ing speechless.” And, that was from a friend who is never speechless. Some friends claim they pray daily to wind gods such as Pele, others claim we have forced them to simply become religious in general terms. Finally, a common theme also appears to be the fact that the stress and strain we put on our friends has pushed many towards being alcoholics.
Quite an influence we appear to have, eh?

We are home for a bit. Back in the USA. It is meaningful to finish in to our home country in first. A short flight home now for a few days to watch my daughter play tennis, and actually be a dad, a husband and a friend to a shedding golden retriever. Then back at it next week with a renewed energy and a hopeful focus that we can keep this momentum rolling and make this race closer by the minute.

Confidence is a wonderful thing when you have it, but we all understand that it can be fleeting. Got to figure out how to bottle it. And continue to keep our fans on the edge of their seats.

Sorry, but its the only way we know how.

By: Ken Read, Skipper, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

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First-place finish for PUMA’s Mar Mostro in Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race into Miami

BACK IN THE USA AND BACK ON TOP OF THE PODIUM FOR PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG CREW

MIAMI, FLORIDA, USA (MAY 9, 2012) – The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew charged to the front of the fleet when they departed Itajai, Brazil, and held on to the lead through the finish of Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. PUMA’s Mar Mostro crossed the line in Miami, Fla., USA at 14:14:00 local/18:14:00 UTC on Wednesday, May 9, to win a second consecutive leg in front of a hometown crowd. The team completed Leg 6 in 17 days, 1 hour, 13 minutes and 59 seconds, edging out second-place CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand.

“Hello Miami! This is unbelievable,” said skipper Ken Read, from Newport, Rhode Island, USA, upon crossing the finish line. “It’s great to be back in the U.S. And, we’ve actually been to Miami before on this boat, so this marks our complete circumnavigation of the globe.

“This was about a stressful a leg as it can get,” Read continued. “The guys on CAMPER sailed really well and it was touch-and-go for a lot of the time. But, I couldn’t be more proud of our team – just an incredibly good job.”

As the U.S. entry in this year’s race, PUMA made an exciting entrance into Miami with three Americans onboard – Read, trimmer Rome Kirby (Newport, R.I.) and media crew member Amory Ross (Newport, R.I.). The Miami arrival marked a complete lap around the planet for PUMA’s Mar Mostro as the crew made a training run from their home port of Newport to Miami in May 2011.

“It’s fantastic – I’m psyched to be home,” said Kirby. “The leg was nice sailing for a lot of it, but also a bit frustrating. We had some pretty light air sailing that was tough. But, coming into the U.S. in first place – you can’t beat it.”

PUMA departed Itajai on April 22 and led the fleet on the start of the leg. They were the first team to reach the equator, crossing it on April 30 for the fourth and final time this race. With CAMPER within sight several days throughout the leg, PUMA held off their charge to finish just over an hour ahead for the 4,800 nautical mile leg.

With the win, PUMA added 30 points to total 147 overall in this year’s race. Team Telefónica will maintain the overall lead upon completion of the leg.

PUMA’s Mar Mostro also captured the IWC Schaffhausen Speed Record Challenge trophy for Leg 6. On May 3, the crew posted a 511 nautical mile run to win the award for the third time in the race, having also won for Leg 3 and 4.

PUMA’s Mar Mostro, built and launched in Newport, R.I., departed U.S. waters on July 3, 2011, with the start of the Transatlantic Race 2011 from Newport to Lizard Point, Cornwall, U.K. The crew made a training run to Miami and visited the city on May 13, 2011.

Shannon Falcone (Falmouth Harbor, Antigua) and a member of the ORACLE Racing team, joined the PUMA crew on board for Leg 6, taking the place of Casey Smith (Brisbane, Australia) who injured his back during Leg 5. Smith is expected to return for the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race on Saturday, May 19.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Shannon Falcone (Falmouth Harbour, Antigua); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

QUOTING KEN READ:

“This is now three legs of my Volvo career where I haven’t shaved, and all three legs we’ve won.”

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Life Onboard Mar Mostro in the Volvo Ocean Race

I’m not going to say much about the weather…it’s more than cooperating and I don’t want to jinx it. We have one more area of projected drifting on our way to Miami, and I worry that if I go off talking about how nice of a surprise yesterday was, how incredibly perfect the sailing was – especially when the early outlook looked so bleak – I worry I might eliminate the chance of it happening again when we hit the final hurdle of high-pressure tomorrow.

Instead, I’ll mention a few finer observations from Mar Mostro life on our way west.

1.        The so-called SuperMoon is, in fact, super. Man was it big and bright coming up over the horizon! Blinding. Sailing last night was no different than sailing during the day: you could see waves and wind on the water, and the sails were lit well enough for strobe-free trimming. We wondered what affect, good or bad, it might have on the tides and currents through the countless Caribbean and Bahamian islands we’ll be passing over the next couple of days.

2.        Numero uno is casual. We’ve arguably been leading this leg since it started, and most would assume that creates an environment of high stress; there is always more to lose than gain. But to the contrary, these have been some of the most relaxing and enjoyable 14 days of this race. Maybe that’s because it’s warm and we’re sailing a Volvo 70 without shirts or shoes, but I think it’s because we’re confident and comfortable, happy and loose. Team chemistry has always been great but our performance so far this leg has helped to affirm our abilities. Time on deck is flying by while preoccupied with stories, debates, and lengthy laughs, and sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re in the middle of a race.

3.        Rationing for a Wednesday night or Thursday morning finish is finished. Yesterday I split our large chicken tikka meal in half and made up the difference with leftover mashed potato powder. The day before that we had leftover protein bars for lunch. So now we have two extra meals, plus lots of extra cereal and bars to fill the un-provisioned time at sea. Not that we purposefully pack light or consistently misread the routing, but arriving late has been a bit of normality this race. Rationing like this gets easier every time and it all feels very under control now. No panic whatsoever. Even managed to squirrel away a few extra savoury snacks for the guys, too, but that’s a surprise! Closely monitoring coffee consumption…might be tight on that one.

4.        Where’s all the wildlife? We’ve soon almost nothing out here. One whale, a few dolphins, and one jumping mahi. Are flying fish top dog?? They running the show? Seems like those little guys are all we see…

5.        Sick of Sargasso. The weed’s still everywhere and it seems we spend most of our time trying to keep it off the rudders.

6.        iPods. They’re changing hands faster than we can keep track of, and I haven’t seen mine in a few days. Tony woke up to three or four in his bunk-side holder the other day. It’s hard to imagine what this race would have been like without them.

Anyways, today should be another great one and hopefully our good fortune continues! The boat’s going fast, everyone’s happy, and we’re privileged enough to be sailing through some of the nicest waters in the world. Life is good

By: Amory Ross, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

LOCATION: 150 miles E of Turks and Caicos islands
WINDSPEED: 11.1 kts
BOATSPEED:  13.3 kts
HEADING: 293-degrees
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 750 miles

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Team Camaraderie in the Volvo Ocean Race

“We’re entering a part of the race course largely dominated by clouds. We’ll be active at all hours of the day and night from here on in.” – Tom Addis

One major component of sailing around the world that never shows up on any score sheet, sched, or progress report is team camaraderie. We spend the better part of a year with the same 10 guys, day in and day out, but unfortunately the tune of this race leaves little time or opportunity to relax. We exhaust most of our days running by each other on our separate paths around the boat. Routines are routines for a reason, and rarely do we have the conditions to break out of them.

But this leg has been different. For the first time I can remember, it’s pleasant enough to be on deck at all hours of the day. Day, night, dusk, dawn, it doesn’t matter; life is dry, warm, and the seas are flat. Guys are spending their off watches talking on the rail, shooting the poop, so to speak. Resting is easy, sleep is plentiful, and for the most part everyone seems eager to be on deck when they can be. We’re talking so much that maybe it’s a detriment to our performance! The groan of eased sheets and clicking of spinning winches is often lost in the sound of laughter. Inside jokes are being hammered more than ever, and the mood seems unusually casual. It feels like we’re getting to know each other all over again, and it’s made what could otherwise be considered a “boring” sail (by this race’s standards) very enjoyable.

But once in a while – like every three hours – we’re reminded of our little race to Miami, and we again focus on making the boat go fast. We’re happy with our windward position on CAMPER and we’ve cashed in some of that leverage over the last 24 hours to foot down over their bow, fully expecting a geographic lift to take us clear of Brazil and towards the northeast before we hit the beach. The boat is going well, we’re adjusting to the squally conditions (conditions that demand everyone be ready to run at all times), and most importantly we’re having fun. Life is definitely fun at the front of the pack!

- By: Amory Ross, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

LOCATION: 160 miles E of Salvador, Brazil
WINDSPEED: 13.7 kts
BOATSPEED: 15 kts
HEADING: 003-degrees
DISTANCE TO EQUATOR: 845 miles

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Across the Atlantic in the Volvo Ocean Race

It seems we are through both front and ridge and finally free to point north, but it was not without its troubles! We first pushed through the frontal barrier with little resistance and it was a few hours more before we approached the east-to-west line of windless convergence extending three quarters of the way across the Atlantic.

Getting anywhere first during a race always brings moments of excitement and anticipation, but in this case life quickly turned tense as forward progress came to an abrupt stop. We found ourselves without wind, aimlessly drifting while trying to keep the rig from punching through our lifeless and hanging sails. It’s one thing to simply sit there, but to spend all of your idle time wondering if it’s a condition the other boats are dealing with too is unpleasant and stressful.

So many times this race we’ve found ourselves in that situation: becalmed and vulnerable, forced to watch while the others just sail around the outside. That feeling of total helplessness is one nobody wishes to relive, and as we sat there today – even moving backwards at one stage – all we could think about was the next sched. Would our lead evaporate in three hours time? Would we be stuck here, isolated and slow, having shown the fleet where not to go? Or are we okay…are the others drifting too? It’s an unbearably difficult range of emotion, having worked so hard to get where we are, and to possibly see it vanish in just a few watches time.

But the answer would come in several stages. Three hours into the mess Tom flipped on the intercom: “It could be worse,” he starts. “We did 3 knots towards 065, everyone else went 5 or 6. We’ve compressed, as expected. Brace yourselves.” Man. Another three hours of waiting, wondering, doubting, and fearing…preparing again for the worse. Everyone’s just trying to make the boat go forward, any way possible. Eyes peeled on the horizon for positive signs of any kind. Finally, a hint of wind. Two sail changes later and we’re slowly on our way again. Another hour goes by that seems like an eternity and we’re actually going well again. But is it too late?? Sched time…everyone’s anxious. The intercom flicks on.

 “Puma…did 10 knots…040.” Moment of truth. “Telefonica…2.3. Camper, 2 knots. Abu Dhabi, 3.1. Groupama, 2.6”

A giant sigh of relief and a few modest expletives later, and we were free. Lead intact, we went back to doing whatever it is that needed doing, taking Mar Mostro north with smiles on our faces. Not this time! At least not yet.

- AMORY

In response to my having a real book: “You bring one book and you can’t even read when it gets dark. I have 10 books on my iPod and can read whenever.” – Michi Müller

By: Amory Ross, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

LOCATION: 330 miles E of Salvador, Brazil
WINDSPEED: 12.7 kts
BOATSPEED: 11.4 kts
HEADING: 340-degrees
DISTANCE TO EQUATOR: 1000 miles

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