Volvo Ocean Race: Puma - Meeting old 'New Best Friends'

PUMA’s "Mar Mostro" picking up diesel during a mid-ocean rendezvous with the "Zim Monaco". PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa.
Volvo Ocean Race – Puma skipper Ken Read shares his thoughts on Leg 6 and the crew’s progress:

This doesn’t seem like the Volvo Ocean Race – not one single bit! It is comfortable on deck, the water is warm, amazing temperature, starry night, heading reasonably toward the next mark.


What is up with all of this!?!?!

I can’t get used to it. No thrashing, bashing, soaking, freezing, boiling, upwind hate mission. Maybe I am just dreaming.

So I pinch myself, and sure enough this is reality. And we are doing all right as well. Extra bonus for being with the lead pack.

I can talk about the race anytime, and I need to elaborate on an amazing coincidence that I believe Amory may have touched upon. I can’t get it out of my head.

Out in the ocean there are what seem to be a million ships. Not so many on the path we took last leg, but for sure we are in the civilized world now and ships are everywhere. You remember all the ships as we passed through the Malacca Strait.

Certainly two ships stand out in my life these days. The Team Bremen was the ship that came out to Tristan da Cunha and picked us up to get to Cape Town for Leg 2. But prior to Team Bremen there was the Zim Monaco – a massive container ship owned by a Greek company with a Russian captain named Borys Bondar. It was the ship that went way out of the way to deliver us much-needed diesel fuel when our mast (and world) came crashing down on Leg 1.

ZIM MONACO captain Valery Bezlepkin and Ken Read, skipper of PUMA's Mar Mostro, in Itajai, Brazil, prior to Leg 6 departure. 22 April 2012. (CREDIT: Christian Lindquist/BERG Propulsion)
© Christian Lindquist / BERG Propulsion
We tied up alongside in the middle of the ocean and took on about 30 canisters of our boat’s lifeblood. In the middle of the ocean, we need our Volvo Penta engine to charge batteries and make water and saturate our freeze-dried food. The Zim Monaco was the only ship that came to the call of Pan-Pan from the Portuguese Coast Guard. A pure act of seamanship. We owe more than we could ever repay to Captain Bondar.

So what are the chances of ever seeing the Zim Monaco again? Pretty slim, I would say. A container ship that travels the globe. Not a chance right? Last time I looked it was a pretty big ocean with a lot of ports of call.

How about tripping over the Zim Monaco in the port of Itajaí, Brazil the morning of the send-off? Crazy amounts of people everywhere, and up walks a short, thin Russian who says to me, 'Hello Captain Read (strange to be called captain anything). My name is Valery Bezlepk in and I am the new captain of the Zim Monaco. We are parked right over there.' He points to the ship berthed about three-quarters of a mile up the harbor from where the race village is in Itajaí.

There it was in all her glory. The Zim Monaco.

I stood there aghast. Lisa Ramsperger, our PR head honcho, was standing next to him and almost couldn’t contain herself. What are the odds we would trip over each other again? Both after traveling/sailing around the world.

Captain Bezlepkin had taken the place of our friend Captain Bondar, who was taking his normally scheduled vacation leave. Captain Bezlepkin passed on his regards, said the ship’s crew followed the race and have watched a bunch of Volvo videos on board after seeing our crazy looking little boat in the middle of the Atlantic. He also brought us a gift – bottle of whiskey and a carton of cigarettes. What else would a ship’s crew offer for a gift!?! We quickly replied with a Puma shirt and jacket. Probably less likely to cause cancer than the cigarettes, but the gesture was real nonetheless.

One thing that will always stick with me is the comment that Captain Bondar made when we wrote to each other following our diesel loading. Of course, I thanked him profusely after the incredible act of kindness that he displayed, for sure something that cost his company money to do. His response…'In as much as we are all seamen, we should all help each other at unforeseen situations that arise at sea.'

A pretty amazing attitude in today’s world of corporate profits and time management. I can tell you one thing for sure. We contacted about five other ships via VHF those fateful days, looking for diesel and some help. Once we explained our situation to each ship, each one of them mysteriously had trouble speaking English or had radio trouble all of a sudden. Not the Zim Monaco.

So the Zim Monaco is alive and well. It turns out they have been to Singapore, China, South Korea and here to Brazil since we saw them last. They are off to Argentina and Uruguay next. Their own little Volvo race.

I bet it isn’t as much upwind work as ours has been.

- Kenny

Puma Sailing website