With Bristol native Charlie Enright stateside dealing with a family medical emergency, his former Brown University teammate has been named skipper of the American boat for the fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
“We have built a deep and talented team,” said Mark Towill, a Hawaiian native who will helm Vestas 11th Hour Racing during the 6,000-mile leg from Australia to Hong Kong. “Our squad’s approach allows us to rotate fresh sailors in and out to optimize our crew for every leg and every scenario.”
Enright is expected to rejoin the team when it docks at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in three weeks.
“The depth and solidarity of our team is what’s allowing me to take some time away to focus on my family,” he said.
The fleet, which departed Melbourne on Tuesday, will sail through the Bass Straight into the Tasman Sea with expected windy conditions. Once the fleet rounds Cape Howe, they will have to manage the Eastern Australia Current that runs down the coastline and is famous for massive speeds and random eddies.
“This leg is going to be challenging strategically,” said Simon Fisher, the British navigator for Vestas. “It will be more a game of subtleties than the last leg, which was more about making sure you were fast all the time.”
The sailors will also face the Doldrums once again, weave through multiple islands, and navigate the busy shipping traffic of the South China Sea before arriving in Hong Kong around Jan. 21.
“We have the red boats in our sights,” said Towill, referring to MAPFRE and Dongfeng Race Team, the two boats currently ahead of Vestas 11th Hour Racing in the standings. “We have been playing it conservatively up until now. Our goal was to get the boat to Melbourne without breaking anything, which we did. Now it’s time to push.”
Rejoining the crew for the leg is two-time Volvo Ocean Race winner Phil Harmer and the team’s only woman, Volvo rookie Hannah Diamond. The fleet is expected to arrive in Narragansett Bay from Brazil in mid-May for its only North American stopover. The boats will then depart Newport for the transatlantic leg to Cardiff, Wales.