The change to a strict one-design for the 2014-’15 Volvo Ocean Race had one intended consequence: Anyone who came late to the race could still be competitive. Without the immense upfront investment into R&D, a team that could secure funding and assemble a crew would essentially be guaranteed entry. The latest beneficiary is Team Alvimedica, which announced its commitment to the race in late January, only nine months before the start in Alicante, Spain. The shotgun marriage weds two young American hopefuls that had been dialing for campaign dollars for more than a year and an emerging medical device manufacturer from Turkey looking to expand its global footprint.
“We kind of ended up being in front of each other,” says Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright, 29, of Bristol, R.I., on finding the sponsor. “We had a boardroom-style meeting and talked a lot about brand alignment. Sailing is a platform they have already been committed to in Turkey, so this is a progression of their interests in the sport. They were keen to do the race, and we were a team keen to do the race.”
That first meeting was in November 2013, so there’s been significant planning behind the scenes before the January announcement, including the completion of the boat (the fifth to be finished at Green Marine in the U.K.) and the monumental task of recruiting talent, both sailors and support.
Enright’s American sidekick in the program is also the team’s general manager. Mark Towill, 26, of Hawaii, has been a crewmate of Enright on various offshore-racing programs, including Roy Disney’s Transpac-movie entry Morning Light, where they first met, and the Oakcliff All-American Ocean Racing Team, which competed in the 2011 Transatlantic and Fastnet Races as an under-30 program.
“A big moment for us was attending the start of the 2011-’12 Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante,” says Towill. “At the invitation of Knut [Frostad] and his team, we were able to sit down with them and go through the whole process of what it would take. For us, that was the beginning of our focus and commitment to find a sponsor. It’s one thing to talk about and dream about doing the race, but it’s another to meet with the organizers and to see the race, which then helped us to seriously think about what it would take to get to where we wanted to go.”
With Alvimedica’s commitment to the race, says Enright, he can now put down the many balls he’s been juggling. He’ll take leave from his job as a salesman at North Sails and settle into a routine of “waking up every morning with one goal in mind—to win the Volvo Ocean Race.” What excites him most, he says, is the thought of sailing into the sole American finish port of Newport, R.I., in May 2015, his stomping grounds.
“That’s a huge motivator for me,” he says. “First, to be finally doing the race and then to have Newport as a stopover at the same time …what are the odds of that happening?”
As of early February, Alvimedica was the fifth named team, joining China’s Dongfeng, Sweden’s all-female SCA, the Dutch entry Brunel, and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
This article first appeared as “No More Knocking” in the March/April 2014 issue of Sailing World.