Ken Read on doublehanded offshore racing

Published on March 17th, 2020

Professional sailor Ken Read enters the strange new world of doublehanded offshore racing and shares with Dave Reed of Sailing World his insight into its appeal.

Ken Read, one of the biggest names in sailing, admits he’s seen the light. Looking out from his ivory tower at the top of the sport, the 58-year-old yachtsman’s view has been clouded by the ease of his grand-prix lifestyle. Jetting into superyacht regattas in the Med and tearing across open oceans on a 100-footer was easy for this guy. In the distant past are the experiences that made him the natural sailor he is today.

Back when he was making a name for himself in the J/24 class and racking up world championships and scoring a Rolex or two, he and his buddies had to do things themselves. Then came America’s Cup gigs, big-boat programs, two Volvo Ocean Race campaigns, and his ascent to the top of the food chain at North Sails. Charmed life and all, Read is now back in the trenches, among the mere mortals of shorthanded sailing, feet-first into the next big thing.

With a new Sun Fast 3300 on loan from Jeanneau, Read teamed up with professional navigator Suzy Leech to give coed doublehanded racing a shot in Florida during January’s Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race. They won their two-boat division, but more important, Read says, they had fun. The sailing was the easy part. Getting to the start—not so much.

How do you go from maxis and superyachts to this double­handed offshore thing—a 100-footer to a pint-size 30-footer for two?

When it comes to projects that I think are good for the sport, I like to get involved, especially if it can help build a little bit of momentum in a sport that’s in desperate need of renewed momentum. Time is a prohibitive factor in sailing today; the amount of time it takes to go racing is just too much. It’s not only the time to participate. It’s all the preparation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, it’s that putting together a two-­person team in a semi-stock boat is way easier than recruiting eight or 10 of my buddies and hoping like hell they show up. Not to mention the flights and food and logistics and hotels and the personalities and the WhatsApp group ­messages—it is bloody hard. Full report.

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