VOR misconceptions straightened out. Paul Cayard reports from VOR press conference 25/1/06

Today, by video conference form Melbourne, I participated in a Press Conference held at The Press Club in Washington DC with an audience of about 200 people, 100 of which were journalists. It was moderated by Gary Jobson who has done all the sailing coverage over the years for ESPN. On the panel here in Melbourne was myself, Glenn Bourke, Richard Masson – a crew member of Ericsson, and one of the young sailors off ABN Amro 2, George Peet, who is American. The whole thing was very positive and it was a great opportunity to straighten out some misconceptions about the Volvo Ocean Race.

Ironically, I had a similar conversation last night with my wife. It was a good dress rehearsal for today. The fact is that through the media or a lack of the right information getting out, the wrong perception about this race is circulating in some circles. Today, with the authority that only those onboard can bring to bear, we got out the right message, which is;

These are technologically advanced boats, which produce record setting 24 hour runs of 565 miles that everyone in the media is so happy to write about. What goes with that is potential to break things. Two things will happen as we go forward; 1, the sailors will learn to manage “the edge” better, and 2, we will improve the reliability of the equipment.

Another point is that this event is going to give much more to the sailing community that other premier events in our sport. Canting keel technology is smart technology. It allows you to keep a boat light (which is fast) yet have high stability which translates into horsepower and speed. This technology will be the standard for the entire marine industry, racing and cruising, in 10 years time. The America’s Cup for example, spend 100s of millions of $s on antiquated technology and will be changing to canting keel technology in the future. In the near term, we will get our boats sorted out and we will produce a good competition by Baltimore if not sooner. What the event will be left with at that point is great competition from incredibly fast boats that are spectacular to watch and which the average Joe, and even many top level sailors, can only dream of getting a ride on.

I for one, as a professional, am very happy to be part of this learning curve… to ride on the crest of the wave. I don’t feel there is any real damager of a serious catastrophe. If I did, I would not take my boat and crew out there. There is still a chance that things will break and this will limit a competitor’s ability to go full speed. But these issues are getting fewer and fewer as we sail the boats more and more and we find the weak spots. The future is clear…look at ABN Amro 1. She is the only second generation boat out here and she is holding up just fine.

By June, this period will be a forgotten blip on the radar screen. People have to learn to suck it up in the valleys. I have to tell my teenagers this but it seems you have to tell some adults too. If life was all smooth sailing, it would not be worth living. We need some challenges in order to feel like we are conquering something.

I am proud to be the skipper of the Black Pearl, I am proud to be part of developing this technology and I am honored to have great partners like Disney and Pescanova. I would not want to be sitting behind some desk somewhere criticizing people who are willing to “dig deep” to cross into new territory.

As far as I can remember, there aren’t a lot of points of land or holidays named after people who sat at home and criticized Christopher Columbus.

Paul Cayard
Pirates of the Caribbean