Please select your home edition
Edition
Mackay Boats

The Professional - Part 2 of a conversation with Ken Read

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 31 Oct 2013
Skipper Ken Read at the helm in the Southern Ocean. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race) Amory Ross/Puma Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race© http://www.puma.com/sailing
Ken Read (52) has been commanding sailing headlines for the past thirty-plus years, starting with his collegiate days at Boston University where he was a three-time Collegiate All American and the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s College Sailor of the Year (1982), through his time as a J/24 and Etchells champion and a respected sailmaker in his hometown of Newport, Rhode Island. Along the way, Read amassed a fine record of more than 40 wins in National, North American and World Championship regattas, and he was twice named U.S. Rolex Yachtsman of the Year (1985 and 1994).

Dennis Conner shoulder tapped Read to serve as his helmsman during the 2000 and 2003 'Stars & Stripes' campaigns, and Read has also served on the afterguard of plenty of high-profile big-boat campaigns, including George David’s all-conquering 'Rambler'. More recently, Read served as the skipper of Puma Ocean Racing’s entries in the 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 editions of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), where the team finished in second and third place, respectively.

Additionally, Read has worked in various capacities for North Sails since 1996, and in January of 2013 he was promoted to the high-profile role of President. I recently caught up with Read to get his pulse on sailmaking in an modern era that features wingsails in the Cup, One Design in the VOR and a heavy Grand Prix focus on sport boats and smaller keelboats.

What kind of boats have you been sailing since you finished with Puma?
I bought a Marstom 32 catamaran and we started a fleet here in Newport. That was my fun sailing for the summer. Sailing with my kid and my wife and my niece and nephew, just ripping around Newport Harbor all summer long was great.

I have also done a lot of J-class sailing with Jim Clark on 'Hanuman'. I am staying away from really getting involved in a Grand Prix program right now because quite frankly my North Sails job is taking up far too much time to really be able to sail properly.

I am really sailing as much for fun, client based competitive sailing and for fun.



From your position as North’s President how healthy is the Grand Prix market? Are we starting to see a trend back to the pre-2008 days or is it still a little thin?

It’s still thin, for sure, but we’re definitely starting to see a bit of a resurgence in a bunch of different areas right now: new One Design concepts, 30-footers, 40-footers, even multihulls for the first time almost since forever. Super yachts are still quite healthy.

Things like the J/70 have been obviously a boom. There’s lots of pockets that are showing some signs of good health. For sure the 40-to-70-foot range is probably still a little stagnant, but even that is showing some signs of interest.

What challenges does this present to North and what kind of opportunities does it present to try and get a bit more involvement in the 40-to-70-foot range?

We are very much market driven-not the sailing market, but financial market driven, and it’s no shock that when the economy and the financial health of the world’s economy is good, sailing is good. I am also convinced - and it wasn’t looking good there for a while - that when the America’s Cup was said and done, I’m totally convinced that that was a jolt of fresh air that our sport desperately needed. We’ve seen it - we’ve sold a lot of sails since the America’s Cup, since the America’s Cup started ramping up and in its aftermath. That’s all good.



What kind of growth or health are you seeing in the club racing market?

For sure, we’re not seeing a ton of growth. Where you asked earlier where North Sails can do a better job, and that’s exactly where. Our workforce gravitated towards the bigger Grand Prix stuff and we’re making a conscious to get back and help the club racer and help the regional club racers. We know we have to make it more fun for them. We had to cut numbers of crew on all these boats.

The biggest complaint that I hear in the market place is, ‘I’d love to sail more but I can’t afford the time to try to get a crew on the boat and the reason I need a crew is that I simply I need weight on the rail.’ I mean, come on, we just have to do something about it as a sport!

As the governing bodies of the sports, let’s make it easy for owners to get out on the water and not have to kill themselves supplying food, hotel rooms, plane flights, whatever the case may be. We have got to make it easier and that’s one big way we can make it easier right out of the blocks. Even in PHRF fleets, by the way.

How did the economic downturn push North Sails as far as products? Did this make you think about ways of making a good quality sail for a lower cost, or are your clients more concerned about speed, irrespective of the price?

Clients are like snowflakes, none of them are the same, and we have to be prepared as a company to deal with this. We can’t just rely on the fact that we make the coolest, most expensive sail in the world. That’s not an option. We have to be prepared to have a product line that meets the need of all types of sailors, so that’s where we are going.

In the same vein, one of the things that we can do to help the sport is to somehow get the HPRs, the IRCs, the PHRFs-all of these rules-on the same page. One of the reasons we don’t see a lot of Grand Prix racing is because nobody knows what to build. Until the national authorities and the rules makers stand behind one rule, I don’t see it getting better.



Let’s talk a little bit about the Volvo, now they’re moving to a One Design platform.
The airfoil package is One Design as well. The sails and the rigs are all North Sails’ products and everybody has identical stuff. You can’t even recut it. You can’t even move the clew up an inch. You get a package and that’s it. Go sail around the world. Good luck. Push them off the dock.

This led to quite a bit of work for Southern Spars then?
Absolutely. It was a fun project for us but at the end of the day the 3Di product absolutely won us the project because of its performance. Volvo wanted to keep this a performance boat, but it was very clear in the last Volvo that the amount of sail problems reduced by about 95-percent thanks to 3Di. There was no delamination issues-zero. When you are going across the tropics, the sun and the moisture just kill plastic laminates so that’s why a lot of performance cruising sailors are choosing 3Di sails now because it’s so strong and durable and, for something like the One Design project for Volvo, fortunately for us it seemed a bit of a no-brainer.

More from North Sails at www.na.northsails.com

Please stay tuned for Part Three of this interview series.

Zhik AkzoNobelb 660x82Giacomo Yacht SaleAncasta Botin Fast40 660x82

Related Articles

Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 - It just works
Every now and then a boat just clicks. It has all the right bits, of the correct dimensions, in the appropriate places Every now and then a boat just clicks. It has all the right bits, of the correct dimensions, in the appropriate places, and out of it all you get something that simply sings. The Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 is one of these craft. It was designed and built in parallel to the other, more well known versions of the brand’s vessels, and benefits from being more geared towards performance, without going tot
Posted on 23 May
America's Cup - Southern Spars AC50 build for Emirates Team NZ + Video
The Peter Blake skippered Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map 27 years after Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map with her unequalled clean sweep of the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race, Southern Spars were called on to build Emirates Team NZ's America's Cup Challenger. Here's a look behind the scenes at the composite engineering process Southern Spars employ on projects ranging from Volvo OR spars, to Olympic bike wheels to an AC50
Posted on 1 May
She’s still here with us, and now we can be there for her
Of the many endearing qualities in Lisa Blair, the one that is paramount is her effervescence. Of the many endearing qualities in Lisa Blair, the one that is paramount is her effervescence. Yet it is what lies behind that which could be her most incredible characteristic. Sometimes you can almost overlook her steely determination, but not for long when you start talking with her. Catching up with her live from Cape Town surely was a vivid reminder of not only what this sailor can accomplish
Posted on 24 Apr
Gladwell's Line - Timeout in Bermuda and a decision OTUSA will regret?
With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath from what has been a hectic couple of months, both in Auckland and Bermuda. The third major Practice Session has concluded in Bermuda. This was conducted almost entirely if winds of around 16-25kts - starting to get close to the top end of the range for the AC50's.
Posted on 20 Apr
America's Cup - Glenn Ashby on hitting the AC50's sound barrier
These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. The big difference between the AC72, the America's Cup Class, used in the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco and the smaller AC50 to be sailed in Bermuda, lies in their light and medium air performance. 'These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. In 7-8-9-10 knots of breeze, you are sailing at 30kts at times.
Posted on 18 Apr
America's Cup - Bernasconi on expected winning factors in Bermuda
ETNZ's Technical Director, Dan Bernasconi has let out a few clues as to where he thought the differences might lie Emirates Team NZ's Technical Director, Dan Bernasconi has let out a few clues as to where he thought the differences might lie once the six teams entered in the 35th America's Cup. 'We have had a great run', he says. 'We've had a few hiccups along the way, as always. But the boat is going really well. We are getting through manoeuvres very well. And we think our straight line speed is good.'
Posted on 18 Apr
America's Cup - Team NZ return fire at Coutts' social media bullets
Emirates Team New Zealand have corrected the allegations made by America's Cup organisers Emirates Team NZ have corrected the allegations made by America's Cup organisers in a media release on Thursday (NZT) over the team's daggerboard use. In the release, replayed by America's Cup Events Authority and Oracle Team USA CEO Sir Russell Coutts on his Facebook page. It was claimed that the Kiwi team had an issue with daggerboards and were using a rule they had not supported to keep sailing
Posted on 2 Apr
New Pacific 52 class makes its debut in San Francisco
The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco. The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco. Invisible Hand for San Francisco's Frank Slootman replaces his earlier RP63 of the same name. She will soon be joined by a second Cookson build, Bad Pack (Tom Holthus) from the same moulds. A third, RIO 52 is for RIO 100 supermaxi owner Manouch Moshayedi.
Posted on 18 Mar
Gladwell's Line - Of Carnage, Characters and Colour
About this time of an America's Cup season, the sap begins rising as new boats are launched About this time of an America's Cup season, the sap begins rising as new boats are launched, and Cup fans get their first sight of the various team designers' response to the latest America's Cup Class rule. In the monohull days, of course, we initially only got a partial glimpse thanks to the shrouding practices adopted by all teams to hide the nether regions of their America's Cupper
Posted on 13 Mar
So what’s it really like?
For ages now, these editorials have talked about multihull this, record that, outrageous boat speed and 24-hour runs For ages now, well it seems like that anyway, these editorials have talked about multihull this, record that, outrageous boat speed and incredible 24-hour runs. In their own very unique way they totally represent the technical avant-garde, and thank God for that. Where would we be without their impressive shapes, wonderful rigs, and now of course, foiling magic.
Posted on 6 Mar