Vestas 11th Hour Racing will be led by American duo Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, in a 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race team with a strong environmental message

On board Vestas Team Wind

Vestas, the Danish wind energy company, is returning to the Volvo Ocean Race for 2017/18 with a new team led by American duo Charlie Enright and Mark Towill.

Partnering with the Schmidt Family Foundation’s marine environmental programme 11th Hour Racing, the campaign has a strong sustainability message.

Vestas returns to the Volvo Ocean Race as a sponsor after their previous entry, Team Vestas Wind, infamously grounded on a reef at Cargados Carajos Shoals in the middle of the Indian Ocean on the leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi in 2014. The boat was recovered and nearly completely rebuilt for the final two stages of the race, although the team were unable to compete in five legs of the round the world race.

Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, meanwhile, competed in the last race with Team Alvimedica, a US-Turkish flagged campaign. Enright and Towill led the entry as skipper and manager, despite the fact that both were competing in their first Volvo Ocean Race. They finished fifth overall, winning the final stage.

Mark Towill says that the new partnership is a natural fit for both the supporting organisations. “We’ve worked with 11th Hour Racing for a couple of years now, they’ve actually been our title partner since the end of the last race, and it was really important to them that the other companies that we work with share the same goals and values that they do, so the Volvo Ocean Race went to Vestas with an opportunity to work with 11th Hour and that was well received.

“It’s really a new team, with a new dynamic and a new focus. On a personal standpoint for me and Charlie there is obviously a lot that we’ve learnt and look forward to building on. Vestas, I know, got a lot of value out of the race, but more importantly they look at this team as a new opportunity.”

Charlie Enright and Mark Towill

He says they both learnt a great deal about team management in the last event. “There are so many details to think about and so many things to think about all at the same time, we have a greater understanding of the event, what the proirities are, what to focus on – and more importantly what not to focus on, where best to spend our resources, in time, money or otherwise. I think overall it’s better management of the team, of the campaign, and just put our best foot forward.”

Enright and Towill have yet to announce any crew members. “We’re looking to put together the best team we can and that will be ongoing in our training. As you said, last time we were kind of the young guns, and now we have that experience our ambition is to put ourselves in a position to be as competitive as possible. We just need to put together the best team we can get and there’s nothing like experience. We’ll have to see how it all shakes down but we’re certainly trying to put together a race winning team.”

Following the new crew limit rule changes for mixed teams in this year’s race, some teams have revealed that they will be sailing with female sailors, bringing an increasingly tactical element to squad selection. Dongfeng recently unveiled that their squad will include Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou, making them the first team to announce a mixed crew.

Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou, Dongfeng Racing

“We’re open to anything. We’re just trying to see what the best combinations are going to be, and what makes sense, and also what some of the other teams are doing,” Towill comments.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing will take delivery of their refitted VO65 from Lisbon in the next few weeks, before embarking on two transatlantics – from Portugal to Newport, Rhode Island, then returning to the UK – as training and team selection passages.

Of the four teams announced so far for the October 2017 race start, three – Vestas, Dongfeng and Mapfre – are returning sponsors. The new Dutch Team AkzoNobel was first to announce. The race starts in seven months’ time, leaving Alicante on 22 October.