For ocean race skipper Enright, family comes first on this race leg

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 1/11/18

The around-the-world race boat he skippers was neck and neck in the middle of the pack somewhere east of Australia last Friday but Charlie Enright was back home in Bristol, overseeing nap time for …

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For ocean race skipper Enright, family comes first on this race leg

Posted

The around-the-world race boat he skippers was neck and neck in the middle of the pack somewhere east of Australia last Friday but Charlie Enright was back home in Bristol, overseeing nap time for his two youngsters.

First hint of the abrupt change of course awaiting him came as he and the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team were a thousand miles out of Melbourne, Australia, on the home stretch of a route that had taken them from Cape Town, South Africa, through the wild Southern Ocean.

Out of the blue came a message that he needed to call home — right away.

He did and learned that two-year-old son Thomas was sick — sick enough to have been admitted to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence.

Those last miles in to port and a third place podium finish were tough he admits, but out there, pulled in two different directions, “I had to focus on the one thing over which I had some control at that moment” — the boat.

Once ashore, things moved fast.

He was at the dock for 35 minutes, then a ride to the airport, a 15-hour flight to the US West Coast, and another 5-hour flight to Boston where his father Tom picked him up and drove him to Hasbro. “And all that on Christmas Day.”

After a 12-day hospital stay, Thomas is back home now and doing much better, he said. And it has been great, if unexpected, to be with wife Meris, daughter Maggie and their extended family in Bristol.

As difficult as it was to leave boat and crew, “The depth and solidarity of our team is what’s allowing me to take some time away to focus on my family. I think this is a real testament to what Mark (Towell, who has taken over as skipper for this leg) and I have been able to put together.

“I know that under the leadership of Mark and navigator Simon Fisher, the team is in good hands, and I look forward to getting back with the group in Hong Kong,” he told a reporter just after his departure.

Asked Friday whether he still intends to return to the boat for the next leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, Enright replied, “Yes, for certain.”

He has had some limited communication with the team during his absence, but like most other race spectators, has kept up mostly via the Volvo Ocean Race tracker, which gives constant updates on boat positions, speeds, winds and more.

What’s that been liked, he was asked.

“Excruciating,” he replied.

While he can see clues to what they are up to from the tracker, “there is so more to it than what you the tracker reveals — it’s one thing to look at a weather model, entirely another to actually be on the boat” and see and feel what they are experiencing. Currents are among the conditions that don’t always show up clearly on the models.

As of Friday, the boats and conditions were such that this leg is very much up for grabs, he said.

“And we are tied for second overall, so we think we are in excellent position” with lots of racing to go … “I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”

Enright expects to leave around January 18 to be in China in time for the start of the next leg. He expects to be home next in May when the fleet arrives in Newport.

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