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Ray Davies- From Murrays Bay SC to the Volvo OR

by Volvo OR Media on 18 Oct 2006
Ray Davies, joins a long list of New Zealand Round the World race skippers Volvo Ocean Race
'One day we were racing upwind in the bay of St. Tropez with the Mistral blowing over land with the top mark close to it. There were many huge shifts, puffs and lulls. Instead of expletives as is usual from most tacticians, Ray was saying: 'It looks like that there are many opportunities here for us'. (Peter de Ridder - Mean Machine)

Ray Davies has been sailing all his life. At an early age he managed to cross the Whitbread fleet in his little ‘Oppy’ dinghy in his home club in Murrays Bay, Auckland NZ, and he has rarely looked back since.

After becoming New Zealand’s match racing champion two years in a row. Ray did his first Whitbread on Merit Cup in 1997, finishing second behind Paul Cayard’s EF Language. Ray returned to offshore racing for the 2000-2001 Volvo Ocean Race and was helmsman on Illbruck; winning the Volvo Ocean Race in some style.

Ray has been part of Peter de Ridder’s Mean Machine team since 1999, bringing in a haul of trophies including The Admiral’s Cup and the Mumm 30 European Championship, and, most recently, the highly competitive, Transpac 52 MedCup overall. Inshore successes include the Maxi Worlds and the Kenwood Cup as helmsman.

He is set to continue his passion for the Volvo Ocean Race as skipper of Mean Machine; Peter de Ridder’s entry for the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race. We spoke to the man himself and asked him for his thoughts on the next race.

Q: What was your very first sailing or racing experience?
The first boat I ever sailed in was a ‘P’ class with my father when I was about one and a half years old and the first racing was the Rothmans father and son class in New Zealand, obviously with my dad. The first time I won an event was in the Optimist class, but the most memorable major regatta I won as child, was the Rothmans father and son Nationals in 1981 when I was 10; I was driving and dad crewed for me.

My earliest memory of The Whitbread Round the World Race was in my Optimist. I sailed across the front of the fleet at the start of the leg from Auckland to Punta del Este in the 1981-82 Whitbread . . . a reporter took a photo which ended up on the front page of the New Zealand Herald.

Q: Besides sailing, what sports did you do as a kid, where you any good at them?
To be honest I spent most of my youth out on the water, but managed to play soccer, golf, tennis, and badminton – I won the under 14 North Shore Badminton Doubles with my best friend Gary Taylor.

Q: Who were your sailing heroes when you were growing up?
When I was very young it was Sir Peter Blake, through my teens it was Russell Coutts. Nowadays it would have to be Joey Allen, who won the ’81 Whitbread on Flyer II. He is the world’s second oldest bowman and part of the Mean Machine team . . . although he can be a little set in his ways.

Q: What sort of music do you like?
It is hard to have a favourite band because I love music in general. 'The Whitbread Inbred’s' in the 97-98 Race would have to be up there along with 'Near Enough' in the 2001-2 Race!

However when I get the chance, I love going to concerts. U2 are my favourite live act . . . Bono . . . he just rocks and I admire the fact that he is always supporting a humanitarian cause. I will be seeing them for a fifth time this winter.

Q: What is your favourite food/drink?
Sarah O’Kane’s nachos are a definite favourite and I am a little partial to Lemoncello - an Italian Lemon liqueur.. In fact it’s the Mean Machine Team’s secret weapon!

Q: What incident stands out for you in the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06?
The tragic loss of Hans Horrevoets. He was a good friend and an excellent yachtsman who always gave himself 110% with a smile. I always enjoyed sailing with him.

The video of the Pirates of the Caribbean leaving Melbourne was sensational and the footage from the in-port racing in Cape Town was very entertaining.

Q: What do you think are the qualities required to be a Volvo Open 70 skipper?
Primarily an understanding wife, who has to cope without her partner for the duration of the race!

Seriously, the skipper must lead by example and the team’s harmony must be paramount in his thoughts. He must be able to make tough decisions both on and off the water, and set clear goals for the team. He must have the full respect of his crew so they back his decisions

Q: And finally, as the skipper of Mean Machine’s entry in the next race, what are your comments on the following factors in mounting a successful campaign:

Physical fitness:
The demands on the body is huge, some of the sails when wet can weigh over 200kgs so lugging these around and sailing the boat with only 10 crew, with half of them asleep, is pushing the limits of the crew to the extreme, so physical fitness is very important for offshore sailing. We will have extensive training programmes for the whole crew.

Mental endurance:
This will be very much in our thoughts when we choose the sailing team. You can’t afford to have even one crew member going off the rails

All winning teams require an element of luck, however the best prepared teams seem to be able to create their own luck.

Crew ability and preparation:
It is all about the crew and their joint talents working together to form one tight unit. There are many aspects that go into crew preparation, so the more time you have, the more chance to you have to tick all the boxes.

Boat preparation and budget:
The last race proved testament to good boat preparation. The best prepared boat dominated the race and had the least breakdowns. It’s not the amount of budget that is important, it is how you spend the money you have.

Ability to cope under stress:
The race has so many aspects that put the crew under incredible stress, so being able to cope in these situations is critical; choosing a crew that can work together when the heat is on is my goal.

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