For a man with more medals in his locker than a green beret, having to settle for the second step of the podium at the end of a gruelling 2008-09 race was unfamiliar territory for Ken Read.
Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing finished behind Torben Grael’s Ericsson 4 in the overall standings after a tense duel for much of the 37,500 nautical miles with Telefonica Blue.
Such was the closeness of racing between PUMA il mostro and Bouwe Bekking’s Blue boat that at times it appeared they were joined by a bungy cord.
When it was all said and done, publicly at least, Read made all the right noises. “Although we came close, we didn’t achieve total victory. But, you know what? I have never been happier with a second place in my life,” he said at the time. But you sensed that falling short of the ultimate honour had wounded the pride.
A two-time winner of the US Sailor of The Year award, with more than 40 world, North American and national titles and America’s Cup campaigns in the credit column, Read was never going to be content with the consolation prize.
No surprise then that he considers the Volvo Ocean Race unfinished business. And no surprise that he will lead PUMA Ocean Racing into battle again for the next edition of the race.
The long march to the start line in 2011-12 starts here. Well, Alicante in fact, where this week Read was reacquainting himself with il mostro.
He had not stepped aboard the shoe boat since June last year but is leading a crew on a transatlantic delivery to Newport, Rhode Island.
“We are right back into it again. We’ve got to start sailing and testing and try to figure out how to go faster to win this race,” he said.
“Since our announcement a couple of weeks ago, we are busy making plans.
“We are going to sail back to Newport – our home – to complete our voyage. Newport is where we left from when we came to start the race. It will be pretty emotional getting back to Newport.”
In plotting to reach that top step in 2011-12, the scaffolding is being put in place. The focus has been on key crew members who mesh with the design side of the operation, clearly a lesson from the previous edition of the Volvo.
Read and PUMA Ocean Racing have secured the services of Juan Kouyoumdjian to create the lines of the successor to il mostro. Kouyoumdjian has designed the winners of the last two races – ABN AMRO ONE (2005-06) and Ericsson 4 (2008-09).
Integral to the design process is the recruitment of Brad Jackson and Tony Mutter. Jackson, a three-time winner of the Volvo, will serve as design co-ordinator. Mutter, twice a winner, will run the aero program, working closely with Steve Calder of North Sails and mast designer, Scott Ferguson. Jackson and Mutter will also perform as watch captains.
“Juan is designing the new boat,” Read confirms. “Obviously his track record in the last two editions of the race with Volvo 70s is impeccable.
“A big part of that success was to get Juan K, Brad Jackson, Tony Mutter and Steve Calder together on the design side as key co-ordinators on the ABN AMRO and Ericsson programmes. That package is so powerful which is why we went that direction.
“It’s funny to start to get to know somebody on a personal level like Juan. He was always the enemy in the past and now all of a sudden he’s on your team. And you know what, he’s actually a really good guy. So Juan, everything I said about you in the past, I take back, I apologize. We are well underway on the design side and hopefully we will get a fast boat out of it.”
On the crew roster there is youth and experience with some faces from the 2008-09 PUMA campaign and new recruits like Jackson, Mutter and others. Returning from the last race is bowman and systems manager Casey Smith, and Rob Greenhalgh also rejoins. Returning shore-team members include Kimo Worthington as general manager and Tim Hacket, shore team manager.
Read says: “You never bring exactly the same team back. People are essentially free agents; as soon as a race like the last race ends, some people you can’t get back and you’re always looking to tweak things around.
“We have some great new additions in Tony Mutter and Brad Jackson who’ve come over from the Ericsson programme. They fit in flawlessly to the inner workings of our programme. Really good guys and key members of the team.
“Casey Smith, who did the last race with us is back, another key member of the crew who puts things back together when we break them. Andrew Lewis joins us as an Under-30 crew member. He did ABM AMRO TWO (2005-06) and I sailed with him a lot on Rambler. Tom Addis is joining us as a navigator and Johnno Swain is coming over from Telefónica.
“The goal is to build a team not only of great sailors but of friends. The objective is always to have fun. I think people perform better when they enjoy what they do. We still have a few more places to fill.”
As for il mostro, Read has also has a plan which is made possible by the new Rule which has been framed to enable second generation Volvo Open 70s to be competitive on their second lap of the world.
Il mostro will be part of the team’s training at least through this summer. The return journey to Newport is the start point. After that, says Read, the boat is up for sale and the hope is that it will be on the start line in Alicante on 29 October next year.
“With this new Rule we very much hope that this boat does the next version of the race,” he says. “We are talking to several people right now.
“What we would like to do is bring in a team to help us sail the boat this summer, bring a brand new team up to speed to learn how to do a Volvo programme and then cast them loose come September. That’s the ultimate goal. Hopefully we are putting a package out there which is valuable to a potential new team.
“The boat’s in great shape, we just had it ultra-sounded and it came through with flying colours. We are getting back on and sailing through the north Atlantic in the spring, so we obviously still have a lot of confidence in the boat.
“Hopefully these new rules keep the older boats competitive. Our plan is to hand it over and build a new boat through the winter and go back at it again.”
Returning to the delivery of il mostro, he adds: “This trip will be a wonderful start to the process of making this feel like this is a sail boat racing programme again.
“We hope to build on our success of the past edition. We were very happy with the programme but there’s always a lot of things you can do differently.”
Like taking the winner’s laurels for instance.
PUMA Ocean Racing team announcements:
Ken Read, 48 (USA) - Skipper
Tom Addis, 40 (AUS) - Navigator
Rob Greenhalgh, 32 (GBR) - Helmsman/Trimmer
Brad Jackson, 42 (NZL) - Design Coordinator/Watch Captain
Andrew Lewis, 27 (USA) - Trimmer/Driver
Tony Mutter, 41 (NZL) - Aerodynamics Coordinator/Watch Captain
Casey Smith, 31 (AUS) - Systems Manager/Bowman
Jonathan Swain, 43 (RSA) - Helmsman/Trimmer
Kimo Worthington, 50 (USA) - General Manager
Tim Hacket, 38 (AUS) - Shore Team Manager