Volvo Ocean Race - Puma enters the spotlight

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion sailing from Lanzarote to the start city of Alicante. - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
With less than one month until the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, Puma Ocean Racing skipper Ken Read is urging his crew to keep their ‘blinders on’, ignore the bar-talk and remain focused as they arrive in Alicante, Spain.

Read said the enormity of reaching the starting port was not lost on his crew despite arriving under the cover of darkness on Friday night to a welcoming party of just five shore crew. 'It was surreal coming in,’’ he said. 'There was a backlight over the compound and all the boats were lined up perfectly. Everybody all of the sudden went ‘holy crap, we’re going to a boat race’. '

Arriving in Alicante after a 'hell mission' sailing from Lanzarote has again put Read’s team under the spotlight, which he said they intentionally avoided while training at the Canary Islands in recent weeks. But Read is determined to keep the Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg Propulsion team focused despite the distractions of the build up to the race.

The two-time Volvo Ocean Race competitor said he has repeatedly reminded his crew about the importance of this final month’s preparation, avoiding bar-chatter and remaining focussed. 'I fear sometimes that one month is a very long time you know, momentum can be built or stripped in a month like this very easily,’’ he said.

'Let’s just continue down our path and remember who we are, we need to remember that. The bar talk is not going to determine our destiny, sometimes it’s easy to fall into that trap. 'So let's keep the blinders on keep focussing on our specific jobs and things will turn out just fine.'

Keeping focussed is more important than ever before Read said, touting the 11th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race 'the most competitive that has ever been contested.'

Read reckons that the elimination of two-boat campaigns, a switching of crew and the evolution of the Volvo Open 70 design has levelled the playing field like never before. Just who will win is anyone’s guess, and potentially a great unknown until well into the eight-month 39,000 nautical mile round the world race Read reckons. 'The later days of the Volvo Ocean 60s had a similar feel about them, it was almost a one design event with some very alike boats that had all pushed toward one end of that box rule,’’ he said.

'But there were still teams there that had very distinct advantages, that being much higher funded two boat campaigns. The elimination of two boat campaigns has really evened up the playing field. I bet you all our budgets are quite similar now. The talent pool of the better teams has certainly spread out across the board, so you can expect to see the closer racing.'

While developing a race-winning boat and crew has been at the forefront of Read’s campaign he admits that ultimately his number one priority is safety. 'I think the easy stock answer is something about strategy, but the real concern for somebody in my shoes is the safety aspect of it,’ he said.

'It’s still a pretty daunting topic to say you’re sailing across the Mediterranean, let alone sailing across the world. Safety has to be your priority, but in saying that you know you’re pushing safety to the limit sometimes. But having all present and accounted for in Galway has to be the number one priority.'

Volvo Ocean Race website