As I sit, stomach full and in supreme comfort at the home of our gracious hosts for the night, I have a moment to reflect on the last five whirlwind months. In January, Mark Towill, co-founder and manager of the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team, approached me with a question: “Charlie (Enright), Jesse (Fielding), and I have been talking with Ralf Steitz. We’ve got a sweet boat and we’re putting together a team of all-American 20-somethings to compete in some epic ocean races this summer. Are you interested?”
My reply was all of three words: “I’m all in!”
I’m a young American sailor, and I’ve been extremely lucky. Through a series of fortunate circumstances, I’ve been able to transition from college and skiff sailing to competing internationally in grand-prix racing.
I’ve seen first-hand how much of an uphill battle young, talented American sailors face in our sport. What avenues do we have that allow us to build the necessary skills to compete with the sailing superpowers like New Zealand, Great Britain, and France, particularly offshore?
The answer is usually a look of confusion, followed by a furrowed brow and a hopeless shrug. There are precious few options for a young, promising American sailor to move forward and increase the scope of his or her talent?
These were the thoughts of Roy Disney back when he created the Morning Light project in 2007. Recently his protégés from that adventure have found a kindred spirit in America’s Cup legend Ralf Steitz, the head of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation in King’s Point, N.Y.
In a span of three weeks earlier this spring, the OAAOT leadership solicited and carefully sifted through over 250 applications from young sailors all over the United States.
Now the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team is staring down the barrel of our first competition, the Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race.
This will be the first race of a very ambitious summer schedule onboard a state-of-the-art STP 65: Block Island Race, Annapolis to Newport, Transatlantic Race 2011, and the Rolex Fastnet. Most people can only dream of such a summer, and we’re actually doing it. This team is young, talented, all-American, and totally unique. Stay tuned as the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team, and its yacht, Vanquish, take on the world (or at least a portion of it).
Colin Orsini, a native of Seattle, is a member of the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team. The team was created in early 2011 when Ralf Steitz, the director of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation, a handful of Storm Trysail Club members, and the Oakcliff Sailing Center combined resources__ to provide what they hope will become an enduring training platform for young American sailors with offshore ambitions. The team, which is sailing the USMMASF’s _Vanquish—formerly the STP 65 Moneypenny—has planned an aggressive schedule for 2011, including the Transatlantic Race from Newport, R.I., to England and the Rolex Fastnet. Orsini will filing regular updates for SailingWorld.com. For more on the team, www.allamericanoffshoreteam.org._