American team taps into French blood
Published on September 13th, 2019
For two-time Volvo Ocean Race competitors Charlie Enright (Bristol, RI) and Mark Towill (Honolulu, HI), who plan to go a third time in The Ocean Race 2021-22, they have passed on the one design VO65 which they are familiar with for the IMOCA 60. Talk about diving into the deep end.
For a class dominated by the French and British, and in which the USA has barely any history, their 11th Hour Racing Team realizes they need to tap into some expertise.
This education begins when Enright teams up with Frenchman Pascal Bidégorry, who the Americans witnessed win The Ocean Race 2017-18 (formerly Volvo Ocean Race), for the upcoming 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre, a two-handed race across the Atlantic that starts October 27 in Le Havre, France.
To further raise their game they have partnered with MerConcept, the French offshore sailing company founded by sailing legend François Gabart, who famously shredded the IOMOCA 60 fleet in the 2013-13 Vendee Globe, setting a record of just over 78 days to complete the circumnavigation.
The two sides will work closely on technical and performance aspects of the 11th Hour Racing Team, and will collaborate on legacy projects in France, including 11th Hour Racing grants to the Station Marine de Concarneau and the Explore research incubator.
The Gabart-led consultancy has worked with offshore sailing programs for over a decade as technical and performance partners, developing cutting-edge boat technology, new systems, and training programs to prepare a sailing team for an array of racing campaigns.
“We have a huge appreciation for the approach that François and MerConcept have with developing race teams, working alongside sailors and making them faster,” said Towill. “Partnering with MerConcept puts us at the heart of the sailing valley in Brittany, as it’s often called, both for training and technological advancements as we continue to lay the foundation for our campaign in The Ocean Race for 2021-2022.”
11th Hour Racing, based in Newport, RI, establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing and maritime communities to promote collaborative, systemic change benefiting the health of the ocean. It will apply its extensive know-how to work with MerConcept on developing new ideas and drive change within the sailing industry.
“Our livelihoods and our passions are tied to healthy oceans, and focusing on the discovery and promotion of sustainable practices across our sport and industry, is one of our top priorities,” said Rob MacMillan, Co-Founder and President of 11th Hour Racing. “Collaborating with MerConcept offers the opportunity to forge a powerful alliance with key players in the world of ocean sailing — developing a nuanced understanding of key environmental issues and investing in tangible solutions.”
As part of the legacy grants project developed and implemented with Towill and Enright during the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, 11th Hour Racing will collaborate with MerConcept to engage and invest with community partners in France working on ocean health and marine technology projects.
The first two grantees have been designated including the Station Marine de Concarneau — part of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and the world’s oldest marine research facility dating back to 1859 — and the Explore research lab founded by French sailor and activist Roland Jourdain.
“Charlie and Mark are great sailors, with another sailing culture, another approach, and it’s a pleasure to work with champions like them,” said Gabart. “Beyond the sports project, MerConcept will collaborate with 11th Hour Racing as an organization given their experience on sustainable development in order to transform the maritime industry.”
While partnering with MerConcept, the 11th Hour Racing Team sailors and crew plan to spend time training out of south Brittany, France.
“This is a fantastic place for us to set up a base as we prepare for the Transat Jacques Vabre later next month and other races next year,” said Towill of his team’s ties to France. “Southern Brittany has some of the most ideal conditions for offshore training and a wealth of know-how in ocean racing that we hope to take in. This technical and performance partnership is one of the most important boxes we can check off, as we slowly put together the pieces for another Ocean Race campaign in a few years.”
The Ocean Race (formerly The Volvo Ocean Race), scheduled to start in 2021, will be raced in two classes of boats: the high-performance, foiling, IMOCA 60 class and the one-design VO65 class which has been used for the last two editions of the race. Entries in the IMOCA 60 class will compete for The Ocean Race trophy, while those racing the VO65s will chase the Ocean Challenge Trophy.
The race course of the 2021-22 edition of The Ocean Race will be determined in 2019. The race will start from Alicante, Spain in the autumn of 2021 and finish in Europe in early summer of 2022. There will be up to nine stopover ports.
• IMOCA – Team Malizia (GER)- Boris Herrmann (GER)
• VO65 – Racing For The Planet (POR)
• IMOCA – Paul Meilhat (FRA)
• IMOCA – 11th Hour Racing (USA) – Charlie Enright & Mark Towill (USA)
Source: 11th Hour Racing Team