Sunday, 10 May 2009

VOR: Home Sweet Home

PUMA and Telefonica Blue during the practice race for the In-Port race in Boston. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

by Riath Al-Samarai

PUMA skipper Ken Read has played down the importance of his team's perceived home advantage in tomorrow's in-port race in Boston.

It had been speculated that Read's men will enjoy the benefit of "local knowledge" when sailing the waters off Boston, the city where il mostro was christened and their sponsor is based.

But Read stressed that the stretch of water where the racing will take place was almost as alien to his crew as any other in the fleet.

"It's unfortunately a bit of a myth that we've sailed in these waters a lot," he said. "I tried to convince the organisers to move to the Charles River! I sailed thousands of races there at university.

"In Boston harbour there isn't much sailboat racing; Marblehead, Cape Cod, Newport is more typical for grand prix this is a bit of an unknown. Yesterday was the third time I'd ever been in that body of water. So the idea that we have local knowledge, unfortunately, isn't really true.

"It is our local area, it is where the boat was christened and it's where PUMA is, but I can't say ‘watch us, we are going to jag one because we know the local area so well', because that's not true."

With light winds forecast, Read identified Telefonica Blue as favourites to steal the honours tomorrow afternoon. He admitted his boat was better suited to bigger breezes than the four to eight knots expected, but refused to write off his team's chances.

"If they (Blue) don't win it will be a huge upset," he said.

"Honestly, we like a bit more breeze," he said. "Our boat is more comfortable in more breeze and the sailors are maybe more comfortable in more breeze. It doesn't mean we are not trying our hardest to scale ourselves towards that condition, but it's not our strongest point.

"Sail-wise we will be in good shape; we have made some changes there. But the boat is a little more orientated for powerful breeze.

"It comes down to lots of things and we feel we can do well."

Read's team currently sit third on the leaderboard, half a point behind Telefonica Blue and 13-and-a-half points adrift of Ericsson 4. He expects a tight battle for places until the end of the race in St Petersburg, but refused to place too much emphasis on tomorrow's result.

"Gaining places is better than losing places," he said. "But it's not life or death. This is going to be close right up to St Petersburg, Russia. We have to continue to sail well and not put any undue pressure on the team that isn't already there. There's plenty of pressure to perform in your hometown...we don't need to add anymore."

Volvo Ocean Race

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