North Sails NEWS

December 7, 2017


Charlie Enright, skipper of Vestas 11th Hour, shares his insights of what is to come next in life at the extreme

©Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race

Vestas 11th Hour’s skipper (and North Sails expert) Charlie Enright stopped by our Newport office on his brief trip home before the start of Leg 3 from Cape Town. We were able to sit down with him for a few minutes to chat about the race so far and check in before the fleet makes the deep Southern Ocean dive in Leg 3.

Two legs of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 down. Your first big offshore leg complete. What is your first impression of the race so far?
My first impression is the racing is closer than ever, which I guess you’d come to expect given how close it was in the 2014-15 edition. Things are the same but different. The weather’s the same, the polars are the same, and now there’s overlap in the sailors. Difference is all players have been shaken up; same faces, different teams, different mix of knowledge within the teams.

You have a new team with a lot of experienced race veterans. How is it this time around? Since you’ve done this race before – what’s the difference in the team this time?
Mark and I inherently are experienced by having done one before. But, there’s a lot of people that have done this race for a long time and never won. So in addition to adding experience, we’ve tried to add winning experience. I think it’s important to differentiate between the two.

“I think that’s healthy to have a crew that brings different things to the table. We have a variety of ages and nationalities. We’ve got the ladies onboard. Keeping that whole thing running is fun, and vital to the success of the team.”

© Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race

Are your expectations higher or are they more realistic because you know more this time around as well?
Yes, higher. But it’s tough. I struggle with that question because there’s something great about being naïve. You know?

It can be great not knowing what will happen in the end…
And going for it. We didn’t know what we didn’t know last time, but at least we knew that. We didn’t go into it under any pretenses last time, by any means. But it’s nice to have a little experience to rely on.

“We didn’t have any expectations before because we didn’t know what to expect. Now we feel like we’re contenders in this race, and I think that the winner is going be the boat that improves the most between now and the finish. I feel Vestas 11th Hour Racing has every opportunity to be that boat.”

What would you say is the most difficult part of this race so far?
Trying to find boat speed, but that’s always the case. The fastest boat is going to win this race, and that’s what everybody’s yearning to be. We’ve got a little work to do in some very specific areas, but at least now, after this leg, we know what those areas are and where to focus our efforts.

© Ainhoa Sanchez

You’re heading to Melbourne on Sunday. What are you looking forward to (or not looking forward to…)?
Anyone that tells you that they like the cold of the Southern Ocean is probably lying. Having said that, I much prefer cold to the Equator because you can always put on another article of clothing. Conversely, once you’re baking in the sun, you can’t get any cooler.

But you know, I look forward to going downwind. That’s one of the greatest feelings in sailing. I look forward to the double points, I guess, but I don’t know why, because it doesn’t change how you approach the legs. You’re always trying to win. You just happen to be double points.

Do double points put more pressure on you guys?
It can’t. Or better said you can’t let it. I mean you can’t operate differently based on the fact that it’s double points. Some would say they are disproportionately happy or disproportionately angry after the fact, but it can’t affect the way you approach the leg.

How are the sails holding up?
Good. We had some sail damage in the last leg. We had a batten pocket come off our J1. It was one tack in the pre-start, in the river in Lisbon. But I think the damage might’ve occurred the day before, during the in-port race when it was a blunt 40 when we were sailing in a squall.

“Our 3Di sails continue to be a very robust product and the right one for the job Just like last race; the sails aren’t going to be something that you think twice about.”

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© Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race
© Ainhoa Sanchez
Images © Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race , © Ainhoa Sanchez, © Pedro Martinez
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