Read and Kirby depart, bound for ocean race around the world2:58 PM Tue, Aug 26, 2008 | Permalink
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NEWPORT - With his long-time friend Jerry Kirby on the bow, Newport skipper Ken Read sailed out of Narragansett Bay this morning, heading for Spain and the start of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world.
Read is the skipper of Puma Ocean Racing, one of seven teams in the Volvo race, scheduled to start Oct. 11 off Alicante, Spain. Puma's international crew is sailing il Mostro - the Monster - a 70-footer built earlier this year by Geotz Custom Boats in Bristol. Its first official race, with the other six Volvo boats, is scheduled for Oct. 4.
Since Apr. 27, when the Monster first sailed, the boat has put about 5,500 miles of water beneath its hull, Read said, and it has exceeded his expectations. The new boat has been training against Avanti, the renamed second-place finisher in the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race.
"We love what we see in certain conditions against Avanti," Read said, "But we have no idea how we stack up against the competition because none of the competitors have sailed against each other, and I'm not sure whether they will until that day race on October 4. One of the fascinating parts of this race is that you just don't know."
"By October 15, we'll have the day race and four offshore days under our belts, and we'll know whether it's going to be a long, long 37,000 miles or a fun, fast 37,000 miles."
Read recruited crew from around the world, and he also enlisted an international design and building team to put the Monster together as a single system. It works, he said.
"We're happy with the balance of the boat," he said. "The sails, the mast, the hull and the foils work together....We're very, very pleased."
Read plans to use the crossing to Spain as another training session, and an opportunity to see whether the boat needs any more modifications before the race starts.
"This is going to be a tough trip,' he said, "because, on one hand, we want to push the boat hard one more time, just to make sure we understand the systems and see how they. At the same time, if we do some damage, we're putting the race at risk. So, we've got to be smart...and just make sure we make it in one piece to Spain."
He expects to complete the Atlantic crossing and arrive in the Mediterranean port in nine to 11 days, depending on weather.
After the start of the Volvo race, the fleet will sail to 10 ports, including Boston, arriving in April or May at Fan Pier.
Race organizers also have included two stops in China, adding to the danger of the event, said Kirby. The veteran bowman has sailed in the last Volvo Ocean Race, and its predecessor, the Whitbread Race. He said, "The piece of ocean where we go into China and leave China is the most dangerous water we'll go through [because of] the temperature and the intensity and size of the storms. It will be colder than the Southern Ocean, and the storms will be less predictable. It will be harder to find a track that's safe.
"The navigational issues in this new Volvo are much harder that any other Volvo that's been done. We've got more miles to sail; we're crossing the Equator five times, as opposed to two; and sailing up to China will be like going to Fargo, North Dakota, in the dead of winter...It's not the right place to be with a sailboat."
Follow the race online at http://www.volvooceanrace.org/