Sponsor Value a Priority for Ken Read

While there is a flurry of activity in the Vendee Globe, with final podium positions being decided and close finishes, the Volvo Ocean Race has left Qingdao for the longest ever leg. Here is an extract of a nice article in the Financial Ttimes by Richard Donkin.

…Puma skipper Ken Read puts “everyone present and correct in St Petersburg” as his top priority for the finish line in June. The second point on his list he calls 2a: “That the sponsor gets more out of it than it could ever imagine.” Point 2b recognises that winning would be the best way of making 2a a reality.

Read approached Puma for sponsorship just at the right time. Jochen Zeitz, the chairman and chief executive of the sports goods manufacturer, had been thinking of launching a new range of nautical apparel. The Puma sailing team and their boat, nicknamed Il Mostro (the Monster), became the focus of the campaign.

“They didn’t compromise on anything, so we have the full kit – boots, gloves, underwear, socks, the lot, all made by Puma,” says Read.

Today’s high-powered sponsorships, professional crews and finely tuned technologies seem a world away from the first competition in 1973, then known as the Whitbread Race. Seventeen yachts of different designs, some of which were sailing with relatively inexperienced crews, set out from Portsmouth with no knowledge of what to expect. Three men lost their lives when swept overboard.

In the early Whitbread races, crew members often paid for the privilege of competing. Today the best crews can demand increasingly lucrative contracts.

“In the old days we used to turn up after a race and hit the bars. The yacht racing circuit was pretty simple then, living in trailers, chicks on the quaysides in the Caribbean, that sort of thing. It was great,” said Jerry Kirby, a former America’s Cup winner who at 52 is one of the oldest bowmen on the professional sailing circuit.

“Looking forward to the race helps me keep fit,” says Kirby, who trained with the elite US Navy Seals to get in shape for this year’s Volvo. You have to respect the foredeck crews on these yachts. Working at the weather end of the boat they occupy almost a world of their own, often out of touch with their crewmates as voices struggle to carry when there’s a gale.

Read the full article at the FT