The Named

One of the closest-guarded secrets in American sailing circles has been the who’s-who roster for Puma Ocean Racing, Ken Read’s Puma-sponsored Volvo Open 70 team, the only U.S.-flagged entrant in the 2008/2009 Volvo Ocean Race. Many big names tried out for these 11 coveted spots, and Read has joked about receiving “death threats” from certain veteran ocean racers, should he pass them over for a bunk. Considering the challenging conditions, the nerve-wracking speeds, and the downright misery of pounding upwind for potentially weeks at a time, the amount of interest that Puma Ocean Racing has received in the form of applicants speaks volumes about current interest in high-end ocean racing, and about Read’s ability to lead a cohesive team through some of the foulest sailing conditions imaginable.

Close your eyes and envision screaming down Southern Ocean waves at 40+ knots in Puma’s new VO70, with icebergs potentially lurking nearby, the closest pint hundreds of miles away, and many sodden days separating you from your significant other. Who wouldn’t want to go?

Having had the pleasure of sailing with Read and some of his Puma team during a somewhat-stressful ocean shakedown when the bow section of Puma Avanti (formerly ABN Amro Two) partially delaminated, I can say with firsthand confidence that Read is the man you want making the decisions if you find yourself in either of the above-mentioned scenarios. Never once were voices raised, and as a sailing journalist, it was tough to accurately determine how sketchy the situation was aboard Avanti as we changed course, from an upwind pounder to a broad-reach glide, swapping the open waters of the Atlantic for the sheltered passage from NYC to Newport, via Long Island Sound. Months later, Read admitted that after taking apart Avanti for repairs, there was precious little core material left in the bow section separating the dual skins of carbon. Few skippers would have kept their cool to the same extent as Read, and while there is no doubt that he and his team will visit their own private salty hell in this year’s grudge match, they are a well-equipped, and well-led bunch.

The following brave, talented souls will accompany Read around the world in his hopefully successful bid to win the Volvo Ocean Race. Collectively, the team has 21 Whitbread/Volvo Races under the belt, as well as many, many miles of offshore sailing. As they say, the best leaders surround themselves with great talent. Here’s the team:

Ken Read, Skipper

Andrew Cape, Navigator

Sidney Gavignet, Watch Captain

Chris Nicholson, Watch Captain

Jerry Kirby, Bow

Casey Smith, Bow

Rick Deppe, Media

Justin Ferris, Trimmer/Driver

Jonathan Mckee, Trimmer/Driver

Rob Salthouse, Trimmer/Driver

Michael Mueller, Grinder/Bow

Stay tuned for a report on next week’s christening ceremony of Puma’s new VO70, which will be held in Boston on May 12. Rumor has it that Salma Hayek will be breaking the champagne bottle, and the new Puma Ocean Racing team will be on hand for the grand event.

Posted: May 8, 2008

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