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.