North Sails NEWS

February 21, 2018


Around the World racing veterans from North Sails share their biggest lessons learned

What does an extreme event like the Volvo Ocean Race have in common with the distance racing most of us do? We asked race veterans (and North Sails employees) for lessons learned; read on for a few tips that just might help you on your next race.

The biggest screwups teach valuable lessons.

North Sails Vice President Kimo Worthington won the 1997-98 Volvo Ocean Race on EF Language

“On our first Southern Ocean leg from Cape Town to Australia, we didn’t have any idea what we were doing and we wiped out in a big squall, blew out our kite. We ended up in irons, and when I looked over the side the spinnaker pole had somehow wrapped itself around the front of the keel. Huge mess. Four hours of cleanup, and then we crashed another four times before the leg was over.

“As soon as we got into Fremantle, we had a very frank team meeting—not rah rah, but how did we screw up, how could we do it better? Instead of imploding, we decided to stack harder and farther back than anyone else. We also decided reefing was the key. Once we reefed, we could carry the kite in 40 knots of wind. By the time we passed Cape Horn, we were 500 miles ahead. That debrief was key to winning the race.”

Tune up with the fastest team before the start.

North Sails President Ken Read skippered PUMA Ocean Racing around the world in 2008-09 and 2011-12.

MAPFRE and Dongfeng did something very interesting before this race. They both must’ve decided they were good enough to win a two boat race, so they trained with each other to create an even bigger speed advantage over the other teams. So now what you have is two arch rivals going out to play with each other. Tuning up beforehand is about three things: Time, money, and smarts. Time to do some serious training. Money to buy the best drivers. And then enough smarts to team up for pre-race training with the other top guys… that’s a pretty powerful combination.”

© Ian Roman / Volvo Ocean Race

Keep working with your sail designer to get faster.

North Sails Designer Mickey Ickert has worked with several Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Race teams, including 2005-06 winners ABN AMRO.

“Back when the Whitbread and Volvo were on the cusp of satellite communication, periodically I would get a call from the boat discussing the next sail or sail recuts to be made in port. In those days, the sails were consistently developed and updated by each team, with the aim to catch up or outperform the opposition. It’s a long race, with plenty of opportunity to learn and improve, so it was possible to outperform the early leader if everyone kept talking as a team with the designers.”

© Oskar Kihlborg Volvo Ocean Race
Images © Oskar Kihlborg, Ian Roman, Volvo Ocean Race
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