Later this week the waters off of Los Angeles, CA will be roiling with activity. Not only will nearly 400 boats be lining up on Friday for the start of the Newport-Ensenada Race (the event that bills itself as the "World's Largest International Yacht Race"), but just to the north some of the world's top match-racing talent will be in the thick of competition at the 37th annual Congressional Cup. Among the skippers vying for the coveted crimson jacket and the $6,000 that accompany first-place honors will be Ken Read. Though his is a name that most sailboat racing aficionados are likely to recognize, (he's a six-time J/24 World Champion, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, and now a veteran member of the Stars & Stripes afterguard), he's a relative rookie on the match-race circuit. SailNet touched base with Read to get his take on this event and to find out how this season's match-racing activity fits into his plans for the 2003 America's Cup.
SailNet: Tell us a little bit about your team and what events you've sailed so far on the circuit?
Ken Read: We've got Terry Hutchinson calling tactics, Moose McClintock as a downwind trimmer, Morgan Trubovich trimming the jib, Chuck Brown on mainsail, and Jerry Kirby on the bow. All of these guys are involved in our Stars & Stripes AC campaign. We started off doing the Knickerbocker Cup last fall and we just came back from Perth, at the Sun Microsytems Australia Cup. We'll do the Knickerbocker again and the Bermuda Gold Cup. The goal is to do about five match-racing events a year. It builds your confidence in the game and it keeps you sharp. You're always striving to become a better sailor, so we use these opportunities as a way of feeling confident in any position we get ourselves into on the racecourse. Almost routinely we do at least one practice training session between each event, so that's 10 match-race outings each year.SN:
You're up against some prettty stiff competition with some of the top-ranked match-racing sailors in the world among the field at the Con Cup. Do you feel like your team is at a disadvantage because you're relatively new on the circuit and you've never skippered a boat in this event before?
KR: The one thing we've learned in the events we've done is that there's no such thing as an easy race. The people who are in these events are being invited for one reason alonethey're good at this. So you've got to go to war every single race out there. But I'm not a pure rookie. I did this event as a tactician for Peter Holmberg two years ago and we won. And Terry has won it as a driver and Moose has won as Terry's tactician and Jerry has done about 50 of these things because he's 100 years old, and Morgan has won as a trimmer. So we're starting to build some expectations among ourselves in the match-racing game. We've been top four in the other events so far, and we're looking to get better. I mean, we tell ourselves that we're not there necessarily to win, but to get better and to build our match-racing skills. I mean that sounds good, but honestly, it's time to win one of these things. It would be a nice bonus to keep moving up the ladder. I like our chances. Why not?