Building a Team
The number of sailors considered capable of participating in the Volvo is remarkably small- only 60 are competing in the current race. They will endure every type of weather and conditions Mother Nature has in her arsenal over the nine months, and will spend three weeks at a time on the open water.
Read calls the Volvo sailors a "pretty incestuous bunch," saying long-distance sailing is the "ultimate free-agent sport." Just about every sailor competing this year has sailed with or against every other. The goal is to create a team of ten men (and women, though they are in the minority), each capable of manning any position and fixing any part of the boat. Most have to have a specialty as well- the Puma crew includes an engineer, a sail maker, a rigger and a nutritionist.
The most important credential for the Volvo? Experience. The race is unlike any other in the mental toll it can take. Read describes the living quarters onboard as "half the size of a small jail cell." Waves beat against the side of the boat 24 hours a day while wind whistles all around. Sleep comes in four hour shifts that alternate with four hours on deck. To summarize, Read says: "Mentally, you just have to be prepared for a pretty miserable nine months."
The only sure sign that a sailor can handle the race is that he's done it before, which is why nine of the ten Puma crew members have at least one Volvo under their belts. Design coordinator and watch captain Brad Jackson has five. The only newbie is Rome Kirby, who, at 22 years old, has 19 years of sailing experience. It's an international group: two Americans, three Australians, three New Zealanders, a German and a South African.
The team also includes media crew member Amory Ross and honorary member Laird Hamilton, who will not be on board, but will join the Mar Mostro for the biggest swells, ready to surf.