The dream goes back to their first meeting on the set of a Disney sailing movie. Seven years later, Charlie Enright and Mark Towill’s vision of a round the world race campaign is coming true as the two friends enter the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 with Team Alvimedica.
Aged 29, Charlie Enright recently married and lives in Rhode Island, on the American northeast coast. Mark Towill is 25, a kid from Kaneohe, Hawaii. They attended university together. Both are friendly and easy-going - they could be your next-door neighbours.
Except that these guys are going to race around the world in the next Volvo Ocean Race. That’s something your neighbour will not be doing – and these two have dreamt about it and worked to make it happen for a long time.
“We were part of the Morning Light project with Roy Disney in 2006,” Enright told me over Skype. “I met Mark during the trials for that – we both considered that project to be the beginning of our ocean sailing dream, which is the Volvo Ocean Race.”
The reality film Morning Light followed a group of young sailors on their cross-Pacific boat voyage. Inspired by their Volvo mentors, the two friends then went on to set up their own company, All-American Ocean Racing. To build their Volvo Ocean Race profile, they sailed transatlantic and Fastnet races as an all under-30 American syndicate.
Their dream began to take shape when the race CEO Knut Frostad invited the pair to Alicante for the start of the last edition in October 2011.
“It’s not been easy by any means despite the great start we had with the Disney movie,” said Towill. “We’ve spent long hours treading the sidewalks trying to get a break and it’s been all about making our own opportunities. We’ve also had a lot of help from many, many people making this become a reality.”
After dropping most other commitments in the search for a title sponsor, Enright and Towill finally found an innovative medical devices company from Turkey – Alvimedica – to back up their project.
This ambitious young company is the perfect match for a team that aims to have a crew mostly drawn from a pool of sailors under 30.
Team Alvimedica was launched this Thursday in Istanbul, with Charlie Enright to be skipper and Mark Towill, manager. Towill is also the only other crew member confirmed so far.
I questioned whether their friendship would survive the challenge and wondered if they could even start to imagine what the Volvo Ocean Race is going to be like.
“We’ve had plenty of time to talk about this over the last couple of years,” declared Enright. “We’ve developed quite a relationship working on this together. It’s been a challenge getting to this point so I’m confident we can be successful in anything now!”
His mate agreed. “There is always a little bit of fear just in the fact that it is something we have never done before but I think it is healthy. You have to have respect for the ocean and the wilderness, but we are really excited for the challenge.
“This is going to be one of the hardest – if not the hardest – things we’ll ever be taking on. I’m confident based on our personal relationship and our previous sailing successes.”
Now that the entry is officially announced, it’s time to start building a team and to launch their Volvo Ocean 65. Together with their greatly experienced CEO Bill Erkelens, they need to recruit a crew and start training. But as for this moment, our two friends just want to savour this very special moment.
“This is the first time we are in the same place at the same time since the contract with Alvimedica has been signed,” added Enright. “We’re looking forward to celebrating – and yes, it has a lot to do with what Istanbul has to offer!”