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The Ocean Race - Exploring new frontiers

The Ocean Race - Exploring new frontiers

As Charlie Enright prepares to lead his 11th Hour Racing team in the Transat Jacques Vabre, he talks about the new challenges he is facing.

 

Charlie Enright has already competed in two editions of The Ocean Race in the VO65 class, most recently as co-skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, which he led to a fifth place finish in the 2017-18 edition of the event.

 

Now he and his long-time sailing partner, Mark Towill, have joined forces to lead the 11th Hour Racing Team, in a new attempt at The Ocean Race, but this time in the IMOCA 60 class.

 

It’s a completely different type of challenge: an open design class compared to the one-design VO65; a light, high-tech, foiling IMOCA compared to the reliable 65; crewed by just five sailors, instead of the 11 in the previous race.

 

“It’s really a bit of trial by fire,” said Enright, describing his first months learning to sail the IMOCA. “It’s a lot more hands-on as you need to do just about everything yourself. Everyday I’ve been learning, making mistakes, fixing them and moving on – that’s the process.”

 

To accelerate the learning process, the team has joined forces with Pascal Bidegorry, who won the last edition of The Ocean Race with Dongfeng Race Team, but importantly, has a lifetime of experience in the IMOCA class.
 

 
 

© Credit Vincent Curutchet | IMOCA.

 

“He’s been amazing.” Enright said. “He’s hyper focused, very technically savvy, tonnes of IMOCA experience as he’s sailed on a lot of different boats in the past. He’s sailed short-handed a lot and that helps as I need to learn how to do everything on these boats – from working on the bow to doing the nav during a race.”

 

Next up on the calendar for the team is the Transat Jacques Vabre, a double-handed transatlantic race that starts from Le Havre, France on Sunday.

 

Enright and Bidegorry will team up for the race. They are racing the ex-Hugo Boss, which is one generation and design iteration behind the newest IMOCAs that have launched this year. With that in mind, their performance goals are tempered.

 

“First and foremost, the goal is to get there and finish,” Enright said amid preparations for the race. “A lot of the data acquisition we plan to do on the race and the delivery back is very important to the long-term goals of the programme in terms of feeding into the design of our new boat.

 

“We have to keep in mind the overall goal of the project, which is The Ocean Race, but you can bet that once we get out there, we’ll be scrapping to do as well as we can.”

 

A new challenge for Enright is being involved in the design process of the new boat. As a sailor, he says it’s important to be able to feed in his knowledge and experience to the design process.

 

“I’m not a naval architect, but I’ve done a lot of sailing and I know what works and doesn’t work,” he said. “I think I can contribute by providing a lot of the experiential feedback and less of the technical feedback.

 

“It’s a challenge we embrace and look forward to. As much as you’d like to win the race before it starts (with a great design) you can also lose it before it starts if you go too far into left field. You have to balance the risk reward and we pride ourselves on that risk management process which is a skill in and of itself.”

 

The project is made possible by a partnership with 11th Hour Racing, which Enright says is a natural fit.

 

“It comes down to the people and relationships,” he said. “We all have a passion for the Ocean and the sustainable aspects of our campaign are a critical mission for us.”

 

This week, Enright and Towill signed on to the team’s Sustainability Policy, committing the team to feature sustainability as a core value, demonstrating leadership, innovation, collaboration and leaving a legacy that ultimately benefits ocean health.

 

“As life-long sailors, the members of the 11th Hour Racing Team are committed to being advocates for the ocean and lead by example in all aspects of our campaign, keeping the health of our ocean at the forefront of our decision-making process while promoting positive, systemic change, and inspiring fans to take action for the ocean,” said Enright, whose team is using #oceanhour in their campaign to highlight the planet's oceans are under duress.

 

The Transat Jacques Vabre starts on Sunday from Le Havre, France.

 

www.theoceanrace.com

 

Cover photo © credit Vincent Curutchet | IMOCA

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