Charlie Enright: The Grizzled Kid

Published on October 19th, 2017

Charlie Enright and Mark Towill had parlayed a teenage adventure in the Disney sailing movie, Morning Light, to front the very young Team Alvimedica in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race. Once finished, the duo was determined to do it again, eager to apply that rookie season toward the 2017-18 edition. That announcement came earlier this year when it was revealed they would lead Vestas 11th Hour Racing.

Now a grizzled kid at 33 years, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck caught up with Charlie for an update.

Charlie Enright

Let’s start with the boat.
We have the same boat that Mark and I used in the 2014-15 races. A lot of people assume it’s the Team Vestas Wind boat that had the accident, but no, our Team Alvimedica boat has been rebranded for us this race. Between training and the last race, we’ve now sailed it across the Atlantic five times so we know her well.

And the gear too?
That’s one of the reasons that we chose to keep our old platform. Part of it was the boat and our trust in it, but a great deal of it was the pool of spares and the extras that we’d accumulated over the course of that race.

Your funding was pretty thin for the last race. Is it better this time?
More is generally better when it comes to financing, but there’s no team this race with a seriously different payrolls. We feel we have a competitive team and a competitive budget, and those are the important things.

You were tied for fourth in the last race, losing on countback to finish fifth out of seven teams. What must happen to improve on that?
Given how the boats are the same, it comes down to how fast we can sail the boat. We need good drivers and we need to sail the boat better. We have changed our personnel and have brought on some people from other teams which has helped us learn more about the boat. I anticipate this race will a lot tighter as the top talent from the last race has been spread out among all the teams. There are now fewer secrets. Also, when you look at all the crew lists, the overall talent is very deep this race. We are in for a very intense eight months.

You were the new kids last time. Did you find it easier recruiting your team for this race?

We had lofty goals for the last race, and while we may have fallen short on some in our minds, we may have exceeded the expectations of others. The experience we accrued in the last race was invaluable, and now with some street cred, the build-up for this race has been totally different.

Our network was limited before the last race, and it took us a very long time to build-up a crew that we felt good about. This time around we had a far better idea of the team we wanted and the personnel that would fit in, and we feel we have a great group now assembled with which to start this journey.

It is one thing to race fast when in sight of the others…
Decision making in the absence of others defines offshore racing. There is a new sail – the J0 – for this race so understanding the crossovers is critical. Knowing the angles and windspeed for each sail connects directly to tactical decisions, and, any tactical or sail change on these boats is a huge investment that must always pay off. With each boat stacked with talent, all sailing the same boats, constantly making correct decisions is the name of the game.

What should we look for on the first leg?
A big one is how fast the boats are going. The fleet has been doing some warm-up races and we have seen how a couple of the boats that have been sailing a little bit longer definitely have an edge for now. However, that edge isn’t nearly as large as we thought it would be, so we feel good about that, but eliminating any differences is what everyone will be chasing.

The other is watching the behavior of the fleet, specifically, who’s willing to take those risks. It’s no surprise how last race we all sailed around the world in a little peloton largely because we essentially had the same polars, the same weather data, and the same routing systems, so we are being told to do the same thing.

But there are tactical opportunities out there, so who will be the team with the confidence to split from the peloton and take some chances. Keep your on who is going to try and win this race and who is focusing more on not losing it. We are out to win this race, and know there will be hard decisions along the way. Wish us luck!

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The first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race will start on October 22 and extend 1450 nm from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal via Porto Santo.

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Brad Jackson (NZL)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

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