SAN DIEGO >> With the wind — and their competitors — at their backs, Charlie Enright and Hawaii resident Mark Towill rounded Cape Horn and allowed themselves a few seconds to savor the accomplishment.
Considered the nautical equivalent of reaching the summit of Mount Everest, the rounding came in daylight on March 30, going 30 knots downwind on the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
“This race is mentally taxing like you would not believe,” Enright said. “You’ve got to be on 24/7 for a month. Cape Horn is the only time we had 10 seconds to just reflect on what had happened. The magnitude of that situation was lost on no one.”
It was the first time Enright and Towill rounded Cape Horn, and they did it at the front of the fleet.
They hope to make it a habit.
“That was a really special moment,” Towill said. “The defining two weeks of the whole race was the Southern Ocean. To be leading when you get to Cape Horn was special.”
After heading up Team Alvimedica in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, the Ivy Leaguers recently founded 55 South-11th Hour Racing with an eye on the 2017-18 edition of the grueling round-the-world race. The 55 South refers to Cape Horn’s latitude at the bottom of South America.
Their next challenge is finding a title sponsor to assure they’ll be on the starting line in October 2017.
Operating with one of the smallest budgets, Team Alvimedica — based in Newport, Rhode Island, and backed by a Turkish company — finished tied for fourth in the seven-boat fleet.
Enright, the skipper, said they’re starting the new cycle with some money in the bank from sub-sponsors from the last race who have re-upped with the duo.
“We’re in a much better place than we were at this time for the previous race,” Enright said.
“Before, we were essentially two ambitious young guys with a dream,” said Towill, the team principal. “Now we’ve got a bit of a track record to stand behind.”
Enright, 31, of Bristol, Rhode Island, and Towill, 27, of Kaneohe, both graduated from Brown. They met in 2006 during trials for the documentary “Morning Light,” which followed a group of young sailors competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Inspired by mentors who had competed in the Volvo Ocean Race, they set up their own company, All-American Ocean Racing, with a goal of sailing in the round-the-world race.
They made it, with the highlights being the Cape Horn rounding and winning the final leg.
“We accomplished a lot with a little,” Enright said last weekend, when the duo gave a keynote address at U.S. Sailing’s Leadership Forum in San Diego.
They’re cautiously optimistic they’ll raise the cash needed to compete.
As they seek funding, they certainly have yarns to tell.
“Explaining what we do to people is often times difficult,” Enright said.
“You do the race for two reasons,” he added. “It’s the competition and the adventure. To be competing at that level 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a month is grueling. To be on all the time is a feeling like no other. You wake up now that the race is over and you’ve got 15 things on your mind. You wake up on the boat and you’ve got one — how are we going to beat these guys to the next place we’re going?
“That’s what drives us, certainly. But then from the adventure aspect of it, you can get competitive playing chess. But that’s not what we’re doing. You get to sail around the planet, which is an amazing thing. You get to see places that very few people are able to see.”
They’re hooked, for sure.
“Once you get a little bit of it in your blood, it’s hard to get it out,” Towill said.
Sailors essentially pack their lives into a 40-liter bag for the nine-leg race that covers 38,739 nautical miles.
“We measure and weigh every single thing we bring on the boat so there’s nothing unnecessary,” Towill said. “There are no cellphones, no distractions and everybody is working together on a simple and common goal. We’re just trying to get to the next place as quickly as we can.”
After winning the final leg of the VOR in June, Enright and Towill flew to Newport and a day later left on the Transatlantic Race 2015, helping to sail Lucky to victory.
“That’s probably a testament to not being sick of each other,” Towill said.
Enright and Towill signed a deal with 11th Hour Racing, which promotes the health of the marine environment. Part of that mission is trying to reduce the amount of trash in oceans.
“We feel like we can speak to that credibly, now that we’ve been around the world and seen it,” Enright said.