Columns, Sports

Blasberg ’18: Making waves: Enright ’08 and Towill ’11 lead Team Alvimedica

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, October 10, 2014

Last Saturday, sound tactics and flawless boat handling led 29-year-old skipper Charlie Enright ’08 along with his team Alvimedica to an opening victory in this year’s Volvo Ocean Race’s in-port series.

The world’s best sailors take to the seas every three years for the premier round-the-world yacht race: the Volvo Ocean Race. This nine-month trek is sailed in nine segments, as teams race to coastal cities on their route around the world. During each stop, the teams have an in-port race, a roughly hour-long contest around a course, that also counts toward the overall results.

Race officials continuously tweak aspects of the competition to make it both fairer and more appealing to the general public. In the past, the different teams have been challenged to design and build unique boats, but this year, each team is sailing identical 65-foot boats with eight standard sails to choose from. While some enthusiasts claim that producing the right boat was an integral part of the contest, most spectators prefer the race as a pure test of each team’s sailing ability.

This year’s race brings together seven of the most diverse teams the race has ever seen. Team SCA is the first all-female crew to enter the race in over a decade. Team Dongfeng, whose crew is half Chinese, represents the emergence of competitive sailing in the East. But perhaps the most surprising entry in the race is Team Alvimedica, skippered and managed by Brown alums, Enright and Mark Towill ’11, respectively. The youngest team the race has ever seen, with five of eight crew members under 30 years old, Team Alvimedica had the odds stacked against it going into last Saturday’s first in-port race.

Off the starting line, it seemed that in a fleet littered with Olympic medalists, Enright — a four-time college sailing All-American winner and high school national champion — was in over his head. But during the first leg, Team Alvimedica inched back with solid tactical decisions, steady boat speed and clean boat handling.

After rounding the first mark in fourth place, Alvimedica made the right tactical choice by sailing to the left side of the racecourse to the second mark. The standard 65-foot boats are primarily built for the ocean, which is where the majority of the race will take place. As a result, most teams struggled with the fast, precise maneuvers required for in-port racing. But Alvimedica remained unscathed by the boat handling errors that plagued the other teams, and they ended up rounding the second mark in second place, behind Team Abu Dhabi.

Team Abu Dhabi, skippered by two-time Olympic silver medalist and skipper of Britain’s 2000 America’s Cup team Ian Walker, kept their lead over Alvimedica until the fifth of six legs, when Alvimedica sailed into more breeze on the left side of the race course. The young team built a sizeable lead, which it held throughout the final leg through conservative sailing.

Alvimedica took first place by just two boat lengths over Abu Dhabi. While this result shocked the sailing world, anyone who was watching the race could see that Alvimedica deserved the win. The team sailed a smart, fast race that was devoid of the simple yet costly errors that plagued other teams. Although the in-port series counts less to the final standing this year as a result of changes to the scoring system, Alvimedica’s opening victory proves to both themselves and their star-studded competition that they have a legitimate shot of winning the race.

The fleet leaves for Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday to kick off the first offshore segment of the race. This is not the first time we will see the duo Enright and Towill cross an ocean together. In 2008, when Enright was 22 and Towill was 18, they sailed as a part of the Morning Light project, in which a team of 15 college-aged sailors became the youngest crew to compete in Transpacific Race. The team finished second, taking part in a documentary about their journey that remains popular among sailors.

Enright and Towill were able to defy the odds on Morning Light, and the question remains if they will be able to do the same on a bigger stage against better sailors in harder conditions. Last week’s in-port race has even the most skeptical spectators starting to believe they can.

 

Charlie Blasberg ’18 once crossed the ocean in a rowboat. He can be reached at charles_blasberg@brown.edu.

Topics:
  • Euro Kidd

    Team ALVIMEDICA- at Volvo Ocean Race