McKee's Volvo Blog

Jonathan McKee, trimmer/driver for Puma Ocean Racing, tells of his team's ups and downs in last weekend's inshore races.

McKee368

Sally Collison/puma Ocean Racing

To access SW's 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race home page, click here.

Oct. 8, 2008
Getting Ready

Three days to go until the start of the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race! It has been a pretty hectic week.

On Saturday was the in-port race, or rather both of them. It was a nervous time for all the teams. We had never officially raced against each other, although there had been some practice racing in the previous week. And it wasn't a great day for racing, with the wind under 10 knots for the whole day, and very shifty. But the first points were at stake, so even though this day did not have much to do with what this race is really about, we all took it very seriously.

On the Puma team, we had a mixed day. The first race was pretty tough. We changed headsails within the last five minutes, didn't have a great start, and didn't make many great moves from there, ending up sixth. The second race was more promising. We used our biggest headsail, the masthead genoa, while the other boats used their fractional genoas. So we had a speed edge when the wind was down, but paid a penalty tacking and when the breeze came up on the second beat. We also got a good start and got onto the favored port tack early on, and sailed a good first beat to round in the lead. With Telefonica Blue hot on our tail, we held our lead on the run and halfway up the second beat. But as the breeze built, our big genoa became a liability, especially during the tacks. We held them off to round with a two-boatlength lead. But Telefonica timed their jibe through the mid-course gate perfectly-- they rolled us and went on to win, which was a disappointment.

Miraculously, after combining the two races, we ended up third for the day, behind the two Spanish Telefonica boats. To get onto the podium after a pretty mediocre day was surprising and somewhat gratifying. The Spanish boats certainly looked fast and sailed well in the light air, but it was also apparent that it is going to be a close and hard-fought Volvo Ocean Race, without runaway winner like there was in the last race.

For the Puma team, we hope to be in the thick of things. This week we are in the midst of our final preparations. There are thousands of small details still being dealt with, meetings to go to, bags to pack, families to say goodbye to, and heads to get together. Most of all, we just want to start the race. Some of the guys have worked for two years to get to this point, and we have been sailing our new boat, Il Mostro, since April, constantly fine tuning our steed. Three days from now we will really start to find out where we stand.