2018-01-11 / Around Town

Sailors Head to Hong Kong for Fourth Leg of the VOR

By Sam Crichton

Newport sailors Charlie Enright and Nick Dana helped guide Vestas 11th Hour Racing to a third-place finish recently in the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Having reached Melbourne, Australia after the 6,500 nautical miles of the Southern Ocean, the seven teams departed on Jan. 2 for Hong Kong.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing is currently in third place overall, tied with Dongfeng Racing, and trailing the leader, MAPFRE, by nine points.

Through it all, the competition has been incredibly close. The first four boats to finish the third leg were within seven hours of each other.

The teams spent time during the Melbourne stopover recuperating from the challenging racing and the holiday subsistence on freeze-dried food and desalinated water.

The 6,000-nautical mile fourth leg to Hong Kong represents the first time in VOR history that the route will travel in such a direction. The fleet will journey across a number of ocean climate zones that mirror each other as they run from the Equator to the North and South poles. Another challenge will be the navigational obstacles in the form of islands and reefs that each team must avoid while sailing through the waters of the Pacific Ocean towards the Equator and the Northern Hemisphere.

Once again, Dana will be onboard Vestas 11th Hour Racing as boat captain and bowmen. However, due to an ongoing family emergency, Enright is home in Rhode Island and will sit out the fourth leg.

"The depth and solidarity of our team is what's allowing me to take some time away to focus on my family,” Enright said. “I think this is a real testament to what Mark [Towill] and I have been able to put together. I know that under the leadership of Mark and SiFi, the team is in good hands, and I look forward to getting back with the group in Hong Kong."

Dana spoke with Newport This Week before the fleet left the dock in Melbourne. “This is a new leg for me, as we didn't go to Melbourne or Hong Kong [in the last VOR],” he said. “The leg should take around 19 days over 6,000 miles along coastlines and islands. We will be racing in some tricky conditions, sailing close to land and among strong currents that will affect the wind and how to navigate the boat. Sailing close to land will also bring us into contact with more boats and most likely more marine debris as well. We will have to be on a sharp lookout for both the clouds and the potential hazards in the water.”

He said the crew is making preparations for the expected conditions. “Compared to the last leg this will be much hotter,” he said. “Gone will be the dry suits, thick gloves and thermals, and out will come the T-shirts, floppy hats and sunscreen. We will be sailing through the Doldrums again, near the Equator, so light breezes and long days are expected.”

Dana said the Melbourne stopover has been “great” but “really quick.”

“We don't have a lot of time to get the boat ready for the next leg. Luckily for us, we didn't break anything major on the boat or suffer any injuries on our crew, so we have been able to just relax, catch up on sleep and eat some good food,” he said.

With the race one-quarter of the way completed, Dana said, “We are lucky to be surrounded by a great group who get along well both on and off the water. We have quite a bit of experience on board and have been pushing the boat and crew, but now is where we think we can have an edge by pushing even harder through the middle of the race. Our squad approach allows us to rotate fresh sailors in and out to optimize our crew for every leg and every scenario.”

Returning to the VOR as onboard reporter for Vestas 11th Hour Racing in the fourth leg will be Newport photographer Amory “Amo” Ross, who is sailing in his third VOR. He will be back racing with his teammates from the 2014-2015 VOR when he sailed as the reporter on Alvimedica. Joining the Dutch-flagged Team Brunel will be another local sailor and VOR veteran, Rome Kirby, who sailed the Volvo Ocean Race in 2011-12 on Puma Ocean Racing. Kirby will be a helmsman and sail trimmer and is the team's fifth under-30 sailor. “This is my second Volvo,” he said. “I love the one design aspect of the race. I think this leg will be really fun and a tricky leg.”

Vestas crew, leg 4

Skipper: Mark Towill, USA
Navigator: Simon Fisher, GBR
Crew: Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermúdez de Castro Muñoz, ESP
Crew: Phil Harmer, AUS
Crew: Nick Dana, USA
Crew: Tom Johnson, AUS
Crew: Tony Mutter, AUS
Crew: Stacey Jackson, AUS
Crew: Hannah Diamond, GBR
OBR Amory Ross, USA
Overall Results
1. MAPFRE, 29 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team, 23
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing, 23
4. Team Brunel, 14
5. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scally
wag, 11
6. Team AkzoNobel, 9
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic, 6

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