Bristol sailor Charlie Enright will skipper a boat in the 2014-15 around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race with backing from Turkish medical equipment firm Alvimedica.
Mr. Enright, a 29-year-old Brown University graduate and a member of the Morning Light sailing team whose Pacific race was featured in a Disney movie, is partnering with Morning Light teammate Mark Towill who will serve as team manager.
“We met during the trials for that – we both considered that project to be the beginning of our dream, which is the Volvo Ocean Race,” Mr. Enright said.
The team’s CEO will be Bill Erkelens, a well known name in U.S. sailing who played a leading role in the management of several America’s Cup teams. Team Alvimedica is now the fifth confirmed team in the upcoming race and, with the departure of Team Puma (skippered by the East Bay’s Ken Read), is the new home-town favorite.
Mr. Enright and Mr. Towill are the only two crew members so far but have already begun recruiting members to the team. Applications are coming in, Mr. Enright said during a Thursday morning telephone press briefing.
“The plan is that we’ll look at people in the States first but expand that to take in young sailors from around the world too, including Turkey and Italy,” said Mr Towill in a press release. That release also mentions a desire to recruit sailors under age 30.
There are no age restrictions, Mr. Enright said, although a team goal is to be the youngest in the upcoming race. After the Morning Light project, the two launched their own company, All-American Ocean Racing, out of Newport where the Race will be stopping in May, 2015. The company aimed, among other things, to boost ocean racing interest among young people in this country.
They already have a boat, Mr. Enright said. Built in Europe, he said it is being outfitted in England and will do its initial testing there with a goal of entering a first race there in August. This next around-the-world will be competed in 65-footers, five feet shorter than those in previous Volvo races. The boat will carry both the US and Turkish flags.
Mr. Enright said that, as of now, “actually two weeks ago, this is my full-time job,” although he added that he’ll remain involved with North Sails in Rhode Island where he has been working.
“It’s not been easy by any means despite the great start we had with the Disney movie. We’ve spent long hours treading the sidewalks trying to get a break and it’s been all about making our own opportunities. We’ve also had a lot of help from many, many people making this become a reality,” Mr. Towill said.
Slowly their dream began to take shape and in 2011, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad invited the pair to Alicante for the start of the 11th edition in October that year.
After dropping most other commitments in the search for a title sponsor, the two “found an ambitious, young company – Alvimedica – to take their project from a dream to the start line.”
An Alvimedica spokesman said that sailing interest in Turkey is on the rise. And “This is a medical technology company focused on the heart. I reckon the Volvo Ocean Race is one of the toughest physical and cardiac challenges in the world, so that will make for an interesting study,” he said.
Mr. Enright is also recently married — this summer to Meris (Tombari).