Touching base with Ken Read…
SA: So with a fair bit of time in the rear view mirror from your VOR on Puma, what is the one overriding emotion?
KR: For sure it was an amazing experience that is unparalleled in my life. I do a ton of corporate and private speeches about the experience and every time I get into the video’s of the race I get a bit choked up. An amazing 7 years really. Something I wouldn’t trade for the world even though the food sucks and there isn’t a lot of hygiene involved! People who know me well act a bit sheepish when they ask what my final thoughts are of the race…thinking I am hugely disappointed that we didn’t win. The fact is that we persevered with the curve balls that were thrown at us in a big big way and I couldn’t be more proud of that.
SA: Through the lens of hindsight, list the three things you would have done differently.
KR: We were probably the most conservative of the Juan K boats. Groupama had a nice edge with funds and resources. Having your own personal design team like they did is a nice advantage, augmenting Juan K’s design. Telefonica went a little more radical especially with their appendage program and it was clearly beneficial at times. We were solid, but this race was a game of inches. We got pretty smart tactically—eventually— and for sure the team assembled was incredibly solid both on shore and on the water. We were just a good all around boat. Never phenomenal, never bad either. Not sure that is a place you want to be in a development game. There were certainly times where we could have used just a few more tenths of speed to reach our goals. But also at the end of the day we couldn’t have been that bad because we damn near won the race even without finishing the first leg which would have been a first in Volvo/Whitbread history. Maybe I am being a little overly critical. I think that the mast breakage was incredibly unfortunate and in the end it was clearly a difference maker. A human error from an outside contractor was the fault, the wrong stainless used for a hanger pin that attached the D-1 to the mast. Not the mast maker, not the standing rigging maker, not the designer. An outside metal contractor. Really a shame. And the difference in the metal was undistinguishable to the eye. What that did was obviously take away points on that leg, but it also set us back in many other ways. I think my communication with Tom Addis suffered because leg one was cut short and we couldn’t simply continue to develop a dialogue that only time and experience will build– and we really didn’t get smooth at the tactical/navigation decisions until leg 4 or 5. I certainly could have done a better job there. Our boat speed suffered because we couldn’t have a proper speed team debrief until Abu Dhabi….And then you are really making decisions that can hopefully be in place in China. It is not surprising that after China we improved pretty dramatically. We certainly got faster there. So the mast falling affected the first 3 legs, not just leg one and that was a major for the program.
SA: Will you be back for the next one? What is Puma’s perspective?
KR: PUMA won’t be back in the next race. They have been major players in the sailing world for 7 years now. They deserve a lot of credit. PUMA’s current role with Oracle is a continuation in the sport, an internal PUMA decision to ease out of the Volvo and into the Cup which I fully supported BTW. BERG Propulsion is in the decision making process. We shall see what happens there. As for me, I may be on to different pastures and that should surface in short time.
SA: Given Oracle’s troubles, Artemis’ issues, and the state of the Cup at this point, give us your assessment of where you think it is and where it is likely to go.
KR: I think the Cup is very cool to be honest. Excitement is what this sport needs and what it should be all about. This past VOR and the Cup are perfect examples of bringing that excitement to peoples living rooms and hopefully to bays and harbors near you. For example, we are starting a Marstrom 32 (M-32 Catamaran) fleet here in Newport. Catamarans are finally making it to the mainstream and we have the America’s Cup World Series to thank. I am psyched to go sailing for fun again and we have 5 M-32’s already coming to the Newport area and hopefully it spreads all over North America. Will the success of the AC World Series translate over to the 72’s and the Cup itself? That is a good question because the bar has been raised pretty high with the World Series. But, when was the last time a sailboat was on the national 6 o’clock news, and it wasn’t even in a race–as Oracle was during the “crash and burn on the bay”. Bring on the excitement of the new America’s Cup. And remember, as for the rough starts for Oracle and Artemis…it isn’t easy organizing these campaigns and if it was everyone would do it. All these big Volvo and AC programs have to make educated decisions months and even years in advance. Hindsight from the couch is part of sport, but typically unfair. There will be winners and losers. That is sport. I can’t wait to see where it all goes.
SA: What are the three projects/races in your immediate future?
KR: From a standpoint of being on the water, I am putting together the winter race program for Jim Clark and the J-Class replica “Hanuman”. About as different a style of racing as you can get from the VOR. We are doing the M-32 Cat class in Newport and hopefully in North America– like I said above. There may be a new big offshore racing program happening soon I will hopefully be part of. There are tons of things. Stand by.
SA: What do you do for fun that isn’t sailing?
KR: Reacquainting with friends and family is job one. Its been a long time since I have lived in my house for real. Working on a bunch of projects right now and hopefully have my life sorted soon when I decide what I want to do when I grow up. For sure helping this sport will be a priority forever. A bit of Golf, and cruising, and racing, and having a glass of wine or two, and sleeping in a real bed. All things that you sorely miss when they aren’t there every day.
Life is good.