On the surface, Rome Kirby is an average 22-year old with an appreciation for surfing, his cell phone, Lil Wayne, and steak and cheese sandwiches.
That’s where ‘average’ ends. Unlike most his age, Rome has been sailing since he was 3 years old. He completed the junior circuit between ages 8-14 before getting into big boats and giving new meaning to the term ‘natural born’ sailor. Raised with a hefty dose of competitive edge, he readily admits that he can’t stand to lose and that preparation is everything.
Rome is fully prepared for his next feat: the Volvo Ocean Race.
“I’m the only sailor on the team to have not crossed the Equator,” Rome says. While Equator-jumping will be a sailing ‘first,’ this is certainly not the first time he’ll be the youngest on board. Rome will also be one of the youngest in this 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race.
Voted Sailor of the week BY US SAILING
“I have been training for this moment my entire sailing life,” said an excited and eager Rome Kirby, who was recently named the trimmer and driver for the PUMA Ocean Racing Team. Rome joins the roster for the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, a 39,000 nautical mile ocean race with stops in 10 ports over the course of nine months, beginning in October. Rome, a 22-year-old from Newport, R.I., is the youngest sailor on the team and one of two Americans.
Rome is no stranger to the PUMA team. He worked with PUMA’s B-boat crew prior to the start of the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race and Rome’s father Jerry was the bowman for PUMA. Since then, most of his sailing has been geared towards preparing him for this race. Rome has been sailing on the Rambler and Numbers racing yachts. He was also campaigning a Melges 24 and 49er.
“I sailed in high school and college (Salve Regina), but to be honest, I went off and did a lot of my own sailing,” Rome commented. “I knew that if I wanted to do this race at a young age, I needed more keelboat sailing than was available in college programs.”
Rome embraces the challenges facing him in the Volvo Ocean Race. “Ocean racing is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging, and as crazy as it sounds, that’s the best part,” he explained. “To be out at sea for 20 days at a time, it’s not like a normal sport where you play an hour or two then have a few days to recover. Most of the time, you’re tired, hungry, and hot or cold while sailing, but you have to keep going.”
In addition to his duties as the trimmer and driver, Rome will play a “jack-of-all-trades” role on the boat. “My jobs will include everything from helping on the bow, to boat handling, to fixing broken gear. In addition, I’ve been slotted into taking care of all the safety equipment, helping Jonathan Swain with the food program, and backing up Casey Smith (boat captain) wherever he needs help. It’s a diverse mix of jobs, but I’m happy to help wherever I can.”
“Being the youngest sailor on the boat is cool but it does not mean much beyond that,” Rome stated. “On all boats, especially a VO70, you’re expected to contribute as much as everyone else. No one is going to cut me slack because I’m the young guy.”
Rome added, “I’m taking things one day at a time and enjoying this opportunity I’ve been given.”
Rome is one of the talented, generous, brave Kirby men I am lucky to be surrounded by! Great job Rome!
Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race has begun – click link below to watch the live feed in real time.
Be safe Rome! We will see you in Ireland.