Clean Report – As we mentioned when we broke the exclusive news that a true blue US team was back in the VOR, we were going to leave a little to the imagination about some of the moving parts of the new team. Both title sponsors were extremely sensitive about their message and branding were presented at the right time, which is tomorrow (Tuesday) at an 0930 press conference at Sail Newport. With all those months of secrecy amid toothy nondisclosure efforts, it was something of a surprise to see the well-guarded name of the new team – including both organizations behind it – pop up on Facebook the day before the big, live reveal… For the rest of the story from Sailing Anarchy CLICK HERE!
Posts in category Mark Towill
Last year was an unforgettable one for the rookie Team Alvimedica duo of Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, who completed their first ever Volvo Ocean Race in style, rounding Cape Horn in first place and winning the final leg into Gothenburg.
And, just over a week into 2016, they’ve already agreed a title sponsor for the next 12 months, announcing the launch of their new racing team, 55 South, and partnership with environmental and sustainability organization, 11th Hour Racing.
But, though many assumed that this signalled confirmation of another Volvo Ocean Race challenge for the young Americans, Charlie and Mark explain that there’s still a long way to go before they’re back on the start line come November 2017.
Reflect a little on the journey you both have taken from rookies in the Volvo Ocean Race to finishing the 2014-15 edition in such style, winning that last leg into Gothenburg last June.
Mark: If you think back to where we were three years ago, we’ve certainly come a long way. Just between the whole sponsorship fund-raising process and then once we met Alvimedica, creating the team and setting up the infrastructure, the training and then the eventual race including so many highlights like winning the Alicante In-Port Race, sailing first through Cape Horn and winning the last leg.
For us, it took the entire experience over the past three years to really figure out what it takes to be successful in the event. It really feels like unfinished business – we’d like to have another crack at the race, to apply all that learning and really have a competitive go at a podium finish. I’m 27 now so I’ll still be an under 30 at the time for the next race.
Charlie (who is now 31, adds joking): Oh, I’ll be over the hill!
How much of a learning experience was that last edition for you? Was it tougher than you thought?
Charlie: We kinda went into it with eyes wide open. We didn’t really have expectations. With something like that it’s hard to hazard a guess as to what you’re going to experience so we just tried to keep an open mind and continue to learn and improve with every leg.
As sailors, do you feel that you’re now different guys now than before the race or was this a question of simply honing your skills?
Charlie: Both. We were honing our skills over the course of the race but we certainly know more now than when we started this whole thing. There’s no substitute for experience. We look back and we’re proud of the things we accomplished, most certainly, but there were other things that we say, ‘wow, we can’t believe that we even thought that was a good idea at all’. But that just comes with learning. – Read on
Following their Team Alvimedica campaign in the last Volvo Ocean Race, Charlie Enright and Mark Towill have formed a new racing team, 55 South.
Two years ago, Americans Charlie Enright and Mark Towill were just 29 and 26 years respectively when they launched their 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race campaign. Leading the Team Alvimedica crew, the two upstarts had made it into the big leagues, but they had little interest in being one-hit wonders. So when the the race ended in June, the echo of ‘what’s next?’ was deafening. Now we now.
The duo have announced the formation of their new racing team, 55 South. Enright and Towill will train and race under 55 South as they work toward their ultimate goal of returning to the Volvo Ocean Race in 2017-18.
Joining them for 2016 is the sustainability organization, 11th Hour Racing, which is based in Newport, Rhode Island. The newly formed team will compete in 2016 as 55 South – 11th Hour Racing and aim to set the example for a more responsible relationship with energy and water resources in the sport of sailing.
As Team Alvimedica, Enright and Towill were the first to round Cape Horn, considered to be one of the most remote and iconic places on the planet. Now committed to return to the 2017-18 edition, they are using that moment as motivation. Cape Horn is at Latitude 55 degrees South.
During their last campaign, both Enright and Towill became acutely aware of the significant amount of marine debris they saw around the globe. Together with 2016 title sponsor 11th Hour Racing, 55 South will use their racing as a platform to promote environmental sustainability amongst sailors, clubs and events, and across the marine industry. – Read on
A fleet of six M32 catamarans will kick off the 2016 M32 Series Bermuda from 8-10 January sailing on the Atlantic island’s Great Sound, the same race area chosen for the 35th America’s Cup in…
Portsmouth, RI (September 17, 2015) – Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, the youngest contestants and leaders of the American entry in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race, will share the inside story of their first around-the-world campaign as featured presenters at the Sailing Leadership Forum 2016, hosted by US Sailing at the Hilton San Diego Resort on February 4-6. The pair will discuss the partnerships they made, resources they utilized, how they built the team, and the many lessons learned throughout their journey.
Mark Towill was just 18 years old when he met Charlie Enright on the set of the Disney movie Morning Light, a documentary that followed their training and participation of the TP52 Morning Light team in the 2007 Transpac Race. But together they hatched a dream, which was realized when they launched their Volvo Ocean Race campaign in January 2014.
Now 27 years, and having just completed the 2014-15 edition with Team Alvimedica, Mark shares an update with Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck …
Can you remember when this campaign began?
Seems like yesterday, and it also seems like it was years ago. It depends when you want to start the clock, to be honest. Obviously the race started in October 2014, and where we are now compared to where we were then, it’s like night and day. It’s kind of a shame that the race has ended because we feel like we’re just coming into our stride. I almost want the next race to start tomorrow.
How would you reflect on this experience?
It’s been unbelievable. I’ve learned more in the last 12 months than I have my entire life – both on and off the water. Just the sailing itself has been unbelievable; my knowledge and understanding of offshore sailing, what it means to be competitive on the water, and really what it takes to be successful in this event… the gains have been immense.
Coming into it, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. So now we do know, and we can do a whole lot better. I’d like to think that we did some things well, but we could certainly do a lot of things differently, in a better way. And that, I think, excites Charlie and myself a lot. To have another opportunity at this, to implement everything we’ve learned and to be able to put together a winning campaign from the beginning, would be pretty cool.
For what we just did, there’s no instruction manual. There’s nobody that spells it out for you, and the only way to learn is to just do it, which is what we’ve been lucky enough to do. But the reality is, now we do know. We could use our time better. We could make better decisions on everything. So that part’s really exciting for us.
How did you and Charlie balance your roles?
I think we work well together because we have balancing skill sets, but at the end of the day, we have similar values and views of the world. Charlie tends to take on more of the sailing and performance stuff, and I’ve always tended to focus more on the onshore portions; the commercial and organizational stuff.
In the early stages, I was definitely much more involved in setting everything up. And as we came onto being fully online and sailing, I’ve transitioned more into just the performance side of it, at least while we’re on the boat. So it’s been an interesting balance, and as we transition into the next step here, I think that it’ll only continue.
Sounds like you are ready to get started. What’s next for you guys?
Charlie and I will start by sailing together in the Transatlantic Race on the R/P 63 Lucky. Charlie also has fatherhood in the immediate picture. But in the longer term, we’re already starting to prepare for the next Volvo Ocean Race. We are preparing for the process of sponsorship acquisition. Whether that’s with Alvimedica or with another brand, that’s still a little bit up in the air, but we definitely want to do the next race and want to continue to use the momentum that we’ve generated right now to make that happen.
Events like the Volvo Ocean Race typically struggle to maintain momentum, despite how vital it is for both the teams and the event. How do you plan to maintain the momentum?
For starters, it’s pretty nice to be able to know that the exact boat we’re sailing now could be the same boat we would sail in the next race. With the majority of the ports already defined, that brings a lot of certainty to what’s typically an uncertain event. I’d say in that respect there’s definitely some momentum there. As for the team side specifically, it’s just about getting back sailing as quickly as you can. There’s always more you could be doing, more you could be testing. Ideally, it’s just continuing to build the team and sail with the same guys. So that’s our focus.
What becomes of the assets – the boat, gear, shoreside base?
It sounds like Volvo’s going to set up their boatyard facility in Alicante, so that’s where our boat will eventually head and get decommissioned. I think a number of the boats are doing the same thing though some of the boats are doing some commercial sailing in the short term.
Does Alvimedica plan to continue as a race sponsor?
Alvimedica will advise their intentions in due course but Charlie and I are ready to go again whether with Alvimedica or other partners. We will be looking at all opportunities to ensure we are the starting line for the 2017-2018 edition.
How much did budget size impact this edition?
It’s no secret that we were one of the smaller budget teams in this race. Teams like Abu Dhabi and SCA have proven that with more resources you can certainly achieve a lot more. Maybe not as much as the previous editions of the race, but it did have an impact.
The plan for the 2017-18 race is for the current boats to be used again, plus there will be some new boats built. Without knowing what Alvimedica plans to do, what is the chance of you being a team without a boat?
Quite possibly, for the first time in this race’s history, there’s potentially a scarcity of boats. The event’s been so successful that there could be a supply and demand issue. So timing certainly is of the essence. The incentives are to secure the control of your boat and get sailing as quickly as you can, but you can only control what you can control. It would be great to have somebody call us up tomorrow and say they want to be our title sponsor for the next race, but the world doesn’t always work like that. We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to get to the starting line.
Charlie Enright (left) and Mark Towill when they announced their Team Alvimedica campaign on January 30, 2014.
As the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 completed its final event, the Gothenburg Inmarsat In-Port Race on June 27, it drew to a close the nine-month journey for the young Team Alvimedica that exceeded expectations with an impressive debut in sailing’s premier ocean race.
American skipper Charlie Enright, 30, of Bristol, RI, USA, the youngest skipper in the fleet, along with team co-founder Mark Towill, 26, of Kanehoe, HI, led the young team to exceed performance expectations over the course of the nine-month, 10-stage race around the world.
The team’s achievements included winning the final leg of the race into Gothenburg, two In-Port victories, nine podium finishes (four offshore and five in-port) and first to Cape Horn, the iconic landmark for offshore sailors.
“When we started this we had the most to learn,” Enright said. “We were the least experienced team and that was no secret. You can do your homework and you can go over everything that people tell you about what this race is like, but there’s nothing that prepares you better than actually doing it. It’s been a long journey.”
Enright credits Australian navigator Will Oxley with fast-forwarding the team’s knowledge base. “He’s kind of professorial in a way. He likes to bestow knowledge on others. At times, we were soaking it up as fast as he could dish it out. At times it took a little bit longer to process. I think that’s the nature of our team. We’ve put together a great team and it was always going to be the strength of our team that helped us be competitive.”
Towill was just 18 when he met Enright as a fellow sailor in the Disney film, Morning Light, a documentary that followed the training and participation of a young team in the 2007 Transpac Race. The pair also went to Brown University together and continued to pursue their shared dream to compete in the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. The team was announced in early 2014 and the race crew announced less than a year ago.
“We’re proud of the team that we put together,” Enright reflected.” We made the least number of crew substitutions throughout the course of the race. We had one very choreographed change for the Southern Ocean Leg (bringing on race veteran Stu Bannatyne of New Zealand). Other than that it’s been the same players and we’ve improved together and we’ve grown as a group. It’s interesting in a way, we feel like NOW we’re ready to sail around the world. Which is a little ironic – 40,000 miles later.”
Towill says this team provides the foundation for a future campaign in the next Volvo Ocean Race. “It’s a real testament to our team about how far we’ve come. We started off in Alicante with no real expectation as the underdogs. We proved we can hang with the best and it says a lot about our future in this race.”
Brad Read, Sail Newport Executive Director and head of the North American stopover of the race, express the pride he has for the hometown team. “Throughout the process of sailing and learning and having an open mind, they’ve evolved as a team as you would expect, as you would hope,” Read said of Team Alvimedica. “We’re all really proud of the leadership that Mark Towill and Charlie put into the race to make this team not only get around the world safely, but compete at the highest level of the sport.”
Team Alvimedica race crew: Alberto Bolzan, 33, (ITA); Nick Dana, 29, (Newport, RI, USA); Charlie Enright, 30, (Bristol, RI, USA); Ryan Houston, 32, (NZL); Sebastien Marsset, 30, (Lorient, FRA); Will Oxley, 50, (AUS); Dave Swete, 30, (NZL); Mark Towill, 26, (Kanehoe, HI, USA); and Onboard Reporter Amory Ross, 30, (Newport, RI, USA).
Team Alvimedica Shore and Support Team: Nate Campbell (Boat-Builder), Jane Eagleson (Communications), Bill Erkelens (COO), Cristina Femenia (Hospitality), Chris Higgins (Shore Team Manager), Toby Ingrey (Rigger), Marta Lobato (Logistics), Anderson Reggio (Navigation Support), Andrea Tagliamacco (Marketing), Kristi Wilson (Digital Content Manager), Paul Wilson (Physiotherapist).
Team Alvimedica is the youngest entry in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015, the world’s toughest and longest sporting event. The crew is led by American skipper Charlie Enright, age 30. Alvimedica, the European based medical devices company, is the team’s owner. Founded in 2007, Alvimedica is a fast growing challenger in the global field of interventional cardiology, committed to developing minimally-invasive technologies. This is the team’s first entry in the extremely challenging 39,000-mile race that started October 11, 2014 from Alicante, Spain and features stopovers in 11 ports around the world.
Having trained in Newport a year ago, with four of their crew having connections to the city, Team Alvimedica was excited about the sixth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Itajai, Brazil to their homeport. A good finish was the goal, followed by a huge celebration from the New England nation.
But when Alvimedica arrived to Narragansett Bay in fifth position on May 7, it was dark, the wind was light, and the outgoing tide was far from welcoming. Last call at the bars had long passed. Not quite what they hoped for.
Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck spoke with watch captain Mark Towill to gain insight into what went wrong, and how the team plans to move forward.
What happened on Leg 6?
Tactically, this leg didn’t present many opportunities. It was a drag race leaving Brazil, with an initial high pressure system to deal with. When we didn’t nail that decision, we found ourselves on the back foot during a leg that was mostly characterized by conditions that we are not very fast in.
Our weakness is jib reaching, the 60 to 90 degree true wind angle. The combination of J1 on the outrigger with staysail is something we need to get better at. Generally speaking, we are quite good when it’s VMG upwind and VMG downwind, and especially good when it’s heavy air VMG downwind. We also do well in the wider true-wind reaching angles, but the tighter true-wind angle is probably our weakest point.
Unfortunately, this leg had a lot of tight reaching. Anytime it became those conditions, we tended to bleed miles rather than gain them. So this leg was frustrating in that our speed was not a strength.
Describe the challenge of tight reaching.
The outrigger adds a heightened level of complexity to the Volvo Ocean 65. How you have the outrigger set-up and combined with boat tune makes a massive difference, and we are off the pace in that area. Tight reaching presents a fair amount of options for sail and hull trim, and there is a bit of technique involved.
Each team finds their strengths within the tight reaching options, and we just haven’t. That’s the reality of it; we have some work to do. We need to look at how we are going to overcome this, and it is just unfortunate that one of our weaker combinations was prominently featured on this leg. It is tough to catch up when you are behind.
Staying fast in changing conditions is easier said than done.
For a given wind speed and angle, you could have three boats together, and they will all have three different sail combinations. In VMG upwind conditions in 12 knots, the headsail choices could be the masthead, the FRO, or the J1, and each team has a different opinion of what works best.
This leg had a lot of this type of crossover conditions, and when we were in the vicinity of other boats, we often found that we used different sails. When boats appear close on the tracker, yet they are sailing slightly different angles, their different sail combinations might be the reason.
How each team deals with transitions is massive, and I can think back to this past leg of several instances when we lost significant distance by not doing a good enough job when the conditions changed. This is an area where we need to improve. Anticipating a transition, and being set-up for it, minimizes these losses. How quick can you switch sails, move the outriggers, find the fast sheet angle, change hull trim with tanks and keel angle… this is where gains and losses occur.
How would you rate your progress?
When we started the first leg in October, I really had no idea where we would be at this stage. But relative to where we began, I think we are in a pretty good place. This leg certainly wasn’t representative of where we are as a team, but we also have a lot more to give. And despite this having been a tough leg for us, the crew is doing really well, and that’s a good thing.
Our goal is to be the team with the greatest rate of improvement. The nature of the Volvo Ocean Race is to constantly improve during the course of the 8+ month contest. Each team is seeking to improve faster than their competitors, and as we do for each leg, we need to now scrutinize the information to see what we can learn and apply to the next leg. We will review the performance data and refine our polars and crossover charts. We will make any refinements to our sail handling systems to maximize speed through the transitions. Our progress will come from advancing all these small details.
We now have three short legs to go, and hopefully our youthful enthusiasm will be an advantage. We are going to bring it on these legs. But as we sit here in Newport, we are still very much within reach of an overall podium position, and that’s something for us to be proud of.
You just finished… how does it feel?
I am not going to lie – it’s disappointing. We wished to have posted a better result. We had a good result in the last leg, after ripping through the Southern Ocean, but the reality is we are where we are. The positive is that it has narrowed our focus on what we need to work on, and if we can do that successfully, hopefully we can have some success in the next few legs.
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. The seventh leg, from Newport, USA to Lisbon, Portugal (2,800 nm), begins May 17 with an ETA between May 22 and 29.