Take A Bow

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Stand on top of your car in a driving rainstorm, and have someone drive down a curvy road full of pot holes at 40 mph.  That will give you a basic understanding of what it's like to be a bowman on a Volvo Open 70.

Stand on top of your car in a driving rainstorm, and have someone drive down a curvy road full of pot holes at 40 mph.  That will give you a basic understanding of what it's like to be a bowman on a Volvo Open 70.  Bowmen are the guys in control of the foredeck.  Their job includes organizing the hosting, dropping and controlling of the headsails.  They often have to climb to the end of the bowsprit or are hoisted up the mast to organize sheets and halyards.  Qualities used to describe these sailors are agile, strong and courageous.

The bowman duo on PUMA for the Volvo Ocean Race are Casey Smith and Michi Mueller.  Both members of PUMA's 2008-09 Volvo campaign, Casey and Michi team up again for another trip around the world.  Whether it's changing a sail in monster waves or climbing to the top of the mast, there is no weather where a bowman is off duty.  During his "off-time" Casey will move back to the grinding pedestals or help trim sails.  He's also responsible for all the systems onboard, making the drinking water and keeping the batteries maintained and charged. And if that's not enough, Casey has to check all the rope onboard and day dream about his VW Beach Buggy.  That's a lot to pack into a four hour watch!

When selecting the 2011-12 Volvo team, PUMA Skipper Ken Read brought back Casey and Michi because "these guys are athletic, strong bowman who are continually pro-active in trying to improve their role on the boat."  As with all positions on a Volvo Open 70, sailors can not simply fill one role on the boat.  The Mueller/Smith combo are smart, strong and can fix anything.  On and offshore, these two are electricians, boat builders and Michi is a winch systems guru.  And as Kenny would like to add, "they can trim, they can drive, and they're tough a nails.  Plus they're crazy enough to say yes again to this little adventure for a second time."  

For Casey Smith, 32, the bowman role is the position he enjoys most and will stay on the foredeck for as long as his body holds up.  "The best thing about being a bowman is being involved in a role onboard that keeps me active physically and mentally," said Smith.  "I enjoy helping the boat go fast while trying to be as fast and efficient on the bow as possible."  Because this is one of the more physically demanding jobs onboard (each sail can weight up to 100kg!), Casey likes to mix up his traditional gym workouts with surfing for agility and balance.  

Communication between the front and the back on the boat is very important, both for keeping the boat moving fast and for safety of the bowman.  Casey and Michi have already been around the world together and get their work done quietly up on the foredeck.  The key to ensure things run smooth is clear communication between driver and bowmen.  Yelling and screaming is an absolute last resort but, according to Casey, "sometimes necessary to blow off a little steam and to keep us safe!"  

And while it can get dangerous up on the bow, Casey's scariest moment during the 2008-09 Volvo was when the guys were nearing the Equator and the crew was planning on cutting Michi's hair.  It's pretty understood with PUMA that NO ONE touches Michi's hair.  Luckily, he took to cutting a bit himself and everyone was safe.

Sailing