Volvo Ocean Race - The long and painful chess match + Video

Skipper Ken Read on the helm. Onboard PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.
Volvo Ocean Race – Leg 6 day 16. Skipper Ken Read reports from onboard Puma’s Mar Mostro.

Battles on the ocean are hard. Especially in super light air like what we have had out here the last few days. The chess match is long and painful and very often has stops and starts that stretch out the agony.


We are amongst it with Camper at this stage and there is a lot of runway left and tons of potholes along the way.

First of all, this could not be more unlike every other leg we have had in this race. Dry, cool nights and warm days. T-shirts and shorts always. No hint of a need for foul weather gear. A huge full moon making it closer to needing sunglasses at night rather than headlamps.

This game of chess probably has been a bit more like a tug-of-war if you are watching at home. We stretch out to what seems like a 'comfortable' lead only to hit the next light air patch and watch the troops coming reeling us in. Camper is within sight almost always, making things a bit more tense with constant bearing checks with the handheld compass.

To be honest, these are conditions that suit Camper a bit better than us. They have always excelled in the light air and this is no exception. So for this we are pretty pleased we have held them off to date. And as we approach a left turn at Harbour Island in the Bahamas, we are stressing out a bit because overnight we lost sight of them and in these fickle conditions that could mean disaster. When we see them, we have a better chance of defending effectively. When we don't see them, we rely on the three hour position reports to tell us what the next move should be in the chess match.

The danger always is being too defensive, or too offensive. There has to be a balance and we have to remain fortunate that we simply don't sail into another wind hole that they don't sail into. A little further back are Groupama and Telefónica, neither out of this by any means.

So that is a bit of a play-by-play to date, typically not my style for a blog but necessary nonetheless. On board we have the typical banter, to which Shannon Falcone has certainly added a few interesting stories with his non-stop chatter. Probably a nice change of pace, as was Thomas Johansson who sailed with us on the last leg, for a group that has been together a lot over the last two years! For sure we have all heard the same stories a few times, and a new mix is certainly welcome.

So as we come down to the final miles, we will attempt to apply the basketball adage of keeping ourselves between our opponent and the hoop. Sure it sounds easy, but when you can't see your opponent anymore it is like playing basketball in the pitch black and trying to stay with your man. Keep playing the odds, and if they are going to pass us make them sail around us. Not easy to do, but you never know.



Puma website
Volvo Ocean Race website