Team Alvimedica: Bone firmly clenched in teeth

Published on July 17th, 2014

The Volvo Ocean Race is an extreme event, so the training must be extreme too. Preparing for the October 4 start is Team Alvimedica led by American skipper Charlie Enright. The team’s training now has them in the Atlantic Ocean, crossing from USA to Great Britain. On-board reporter Amory Ross provides an update…

How do you train to race without actually racing? There’s no right answer, and after a few days of fatigued sailing we’re trying to keep up the intensity, but why? I guess that’s the million-dollar question any competitor asks at some point: how do you keep it real? The answer is even more confusing when we know there’s another team out here doing–maybe wondering–the same things.

At 2:00am the call came for a sail change. The wind had eased off just enough to consider changing from the “J2” to the “fractional code zero,” it’s a larger sail but it’s also a different shape, and it’s a change that would supposedly eke a few percentage points of performance from the boat. It’s a figure based on a computer’s prediction, but we’re too new to the boat to accurately know its truth.

So at 2:00am on a training run, in total darkness, still ripping along at a very quick 24 knots, why should a percentage point matter? Most people would choose sleep. What for, right? We have nobody to gauge our performance by so let’s keep on at 24kts and just deal with it at sunrise.

Of course that’s not what happened. Everybody up, harnesses, headlamps and foulies, dripping wet for a 30-minute sail change at 2:00am in the blackness of night to try and go 3% faster towards Southampton. Maybe to get there before someone else, but mostly to just go faster.

It’s a lame example but I think it speaks volumes to the mindset of this team. I hope people understand how eager this group on Alvimedica is to prove themselves. Whether there’s someone else out here or not is pretty irrelevant: we are already racing in every way.

Once we get to England many of us head home for a final pack or rest. The training resumes in early August when we join most of the other VOR teams for the Around Britain and Ireland Race. I had asked Charlie about the start in Newport (RI) with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, if having another VO65 on the Atlantic with us, if it was starting to sink in at all. “If I could change my flight and start tomorrow, I absolutely would. I am so ready to go. After that start I said to myself I could do this every day of the year, no problem.”

Skippers are supposedly a patient lot, but I think Charlie is proving to be the exception!

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race starts October 4 and will take the fleet to 11 cities in 11 countries – Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden – and will require the teams to cover 38,739 nautical miles. It will be the first edition using the new one design Volvo Ocean 65 racing boats. Race website:

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