Challenges, triumphs, and team spirit

Published on December 15th, 2023

It was September 2019 when two-time Volvo Ocean Race participants Charlie Enright (Bristol, RI) and Mark Towill (Honolulu, HI) announced their campaign to compete in the 2021-22 edition, now rebranded as The Ocean Race. Their program got extended a year when the pandemic postponed the race, but they ultimately claimed victory in June 2023.

Six months later, with their winning IMOCA yacht under new ownership, the duo provides this update

The end of the year is always a moment for reflection. Even in our wildest dreams we couldn’t have imagined how this year would unfold – from the highs and lows of the race itself, to the incredible welcome home in Newport and the proclamation of August 4 officially becoming 11th Hour Racing Team Day, to the overwhelmingly positive response to our latest Impact Report.

This year has been unforgettable and first and foremost we are grateful to have shared it with you.

When you walk into The Ocean Race HQ in Alicante, Sir Peter Blake’s words are etched in the wall above race control, “It gets in your blood and you can’t get rid of it.” If you ask heroes gone by, they’ll tell you that it’s the best and worst thing they’ve ever done, that they’ve even despised being involved during the harder times but when it’s over they know why… because there’s nothing quite like it.

With both of us having taken part in three campaigns, we can confirm this is always the case!

Once upon a time, The Ocean Race was about pride and competition alone. Today, it’s about so much more. This latest edition has provided a platform for sports teams and fans across the world to connect through a common goal, a goal that is bigger than you or I, even bigger than winning. You can analyze the points, the performance, the speed and the sporting conduct of our team… but the truth is, our entire campaign came down to two things: people and legacy, elements that intertwine more than we think.

As this year comes to a close, we would like to take time to reflect on those two things with you.

The power of people
The success of our team has fundamentally been down to the people involved. As a small core team, we handpicked a group of people recognized and respected for their individual capabilities and specialist qualities, with the ambition of achieving great things in 2023, both on and off the water. Through mutual respect for the campaign’s mission and each other, we watched as this unique group of people came together to create a winning campaign.

One of our proudest moments of 2023, was ironically also our worst… the collision in The Hague at the start of Leg 7. What came out of that period is something we’ll take away with us forever – firstly how the team reacted faced with adversity, and secondly the influx of support from all over the world, starting with the unwavering support of our title partner 11th Hour Racing.

You can think you’ve got a good team, but let us tell you… you don’t KNOW you’ve got a good team until your back is against the wall.

We’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in this campaign to date. From our team to all of our partners and suppliers, friends, family and fans – the ripple effect of your support has been felt far and wide and for that we are eternally grateful.

Leaving a legacy when the dust settles
The legacy of becoming the first American team in history to win The Ocean Race was the seed of a dream planted long ago by two childhood friends. The reality of it coming true is thanks to the vision of 11th Hour Racing, the determination and hard work of our team, and a testament to those who came before us.

Yet, we are proud to continue to leave a legacy long after the dust settles. Having a higher purpose is the beating heart of our team and this edition of The Ocean Race has given us the chance to prove that it is not only possible to build a credible campaign with sustainability at the core of everything we do, but in fact a winning one. And by doing so, leaving a set of sustainability blueprints in our wake.

From the moment we arrived in France, entering the IMOCA world as outsiders, we have operated around the ethos of collaboration within competition, seizing every opportunity to be more than ‘just a sailing team’.

We set ourselves the task of consistently challenging the status quo and today, this team’s work is embedded across the industry and beyond – from the creation of The Toolbox, helping over 600+ small to medium sized businesses create a sustainability strategy from scratch, to our Legacy Grantee Program supporting local community initiatives improving the health of our oceans across the world.

We are proud to say representatives from our team are active in working groups across the industry, at the forefront of discussions around industry-wide challenges.

We continue to work closely with our partners, advocating for life cycle assessment & data-informed change, responsible sourcing of materials, ethical manufacturing practices, and reduced carbon emissions throughout the supply chain, referred to as insetting and we have made it our mission to, and will continue to advocate for the implementation of sustainable practices at policy level within our sport.

Why not read the three big takeaways from our impact report.

All of this has been possible thanks to the support, passion, and drive of 11th Hour Racing and our partners, who continue to lead the industry and move the needle on critical topics of climate action, biodiversity, and ocean health by leveraging the powerful cultural lever of sport as a force for change. We are privileged to be able to carry their message around the world, and to be able to deliver impactful programs on their behalf.

Together, let’s re-imagine a better future. Bring on 2024 and #BELIEVE, because as we found out this year, anything is possible.

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