Team Alvimedica Leg 1 Debrief: High Marks for Team Work

Published on November 9th, 2014

In reviewing their Leg One performance in the Volvo Ocean Race, Team Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright and navigator Will Oxley both gave the crew a passing grade while also noting there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“I have mixed feelings about the leg,” said Enright, the 30-year-old skipper of the youngest crew in the race. “There’s a sense of accomplishment for getting it done, and we finished ahead of two good teams. In some regards we surprised ourselves, but there were also some opportunities we didn’t capitalize on. The team’s in a good spot moving forward.”

Leg One originated in Alicante, Spain, on Oct. 11, and Team Alvimedica completed the nearly 6500-nautical mile voyage in 26 and-a-half days. For many of the young crew, four of whom, including Enright, are competing the Volvo Ocean Race for the first time, it was the longest ocean passage they’d ever undertaken.

Before the race navigator Will Oxley, the oldest member of the crew at 49, likened the sailors’ thirst for knowledge to a sponge soaking up water. And in retrospect, he sees a crew that’s becoming wise beyond its years.

“I’d say we’re a little disappointed with fifth,” said Oxley. “We would’ve been thrilled with fourth but are probably a little disappointed with fifth. But we had a good leg. Importantly, the team started to gel. We learned a lot and were sailing faster at the finish than the start.”

Both Enright and Oxley pointed to a jibe on Day 16 (Oct. 27) that cost them a shot at the podium. Team Alvimedica was running near the back of the pack exiting the Doldrums, but made hay down the Brazilian coastline and late on Oct. 27 had climbed into third place, just 56 miles behind the lead boat.

Sailing within sight and to the east of Dongfeng Race Team down the Brazilian coast, the teams were skirting to the west of the South Atlantic high pressure. Team Alvimedica then crossed paths to the west of the Chinese team. The two crews were later lifted on port, and Alvimedica opted to jibe to the south while Dongfeng continued eastwards before maneuvering. That proved to be the deciding moment that dropped Alvimedica back to fifth.

“We got a bit caught out trying to get south,” said Oxley, who’s competing in his third Volvo Ocean Race. “It’s clear the high pressure was establishing far to the south, and the only way east to the finish is on a front. We didn’t get as far south as we wanted, but when the ride east (the front) came along we had to get on it.

“At that point the front-runners were further south than us, and the guys behind a bit further north. We did a good job over the final 10 days to stay between them and the finish and protect our fifth place,” said Oxley.

“That hurdle was hard to overcome,” said Enright. “It was a conscious, calculated decision that didn’t work out, but everyone agreed it was the right thing to do. The pressure we were headed to would pay dividends, but we weren’t able to get as far south as the leaders. Dongfeng continued on 17 miles from us before jibing.” (Dongfeng placed second on the leg.)

Overall, Enright and Oxley are pleased with the development of the team. They both acknowledge that there are areas where the boatspeed needs to be improved and they need to sail with more conviction in terms of tactics and routing.

“I’m happy with our competitiveness around other boats,” said Enright. “I’ve said before, we should be and will be one of the fastest improving teams. We still have that in us. We’re happy to be in Cape Town, but also want to get back into it.”

Report by Sean McNeill, Newport, RI

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