The All-American Offshore Team
With the recent establishment of the All-American Offshore Team, young American sailors have a unique opportunity to expand their sailing horizons. The AAOT, an extension of the non-profit U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation, is committed to providing “high-performance offshore training opportunities for an upcoming generation of American ocean racing leaders” and is currently fund raising and recruiting a team to campaign the Foundation’s STP 65 Vanquish (ex-Moneypenny) in four key 2011 events: the 66th annual Storm Trysail Club Around Block Island Race; the Annapolis to Newport Race; the Transatlantic Race (Newport, R.I. to the Lizard, U.K.) and the Rolex Fastnet Race.
The AAOT effort is led by Charlie Enright (Bristol, R.I.), Mark Towill (Kaneohe, Hawaii), Jesse Fielding (Wickford R.I.), Chris Branning (Sarasota, Fla.) and Matt Noble (San Francisco, Calif.), who is captain of Vanquish. Enright, Towill, Fielding and Branning helped lead Disney’s Morning Light team, which competed in the 2007 Transpac Race under the tutelage of the late Roy Disney. Walt Disney Pictures subsequently produced a documentary that followed the TP52 Morning Light and its 15-person crew of young sailors, hand-picked from hundreds of resumes, through six months of training and the race itself.
USMMA Sailing Foundation President Ralf Steitz hatched the idea for AAOT early in January, 2011, when his long-time desire to create a youth-driven effort in the sport of ocean racing was re-awakened by a German youth team entering the Transatlantic Race aboard the Andrews 56 Norddeutche. “I thought ‘if they can do it, why can’t we?’” said Steitz, whose concept was endorsed by USMMA and other leaders in the sailing world, including Oakcliff Sailing Center and the Storm Trysail Club. Steitz added that among the members of a newly forming AAOT Advisory Board are himself, Oakcliff Sailing Center’s Executive Director Dawn Riley and USMMA’s Waterfront Director Chris Gasiorek.
Combined, Enright, Towill, Fielding and Branning have over 40,000 miles of ocean racing experience aboard private yachts and 20,000 sailing as a team on Morning Light, which in effect was their own doorway to high-performance offshore racing. “This core team has already been tested and has come out the other side great friends and better teammates,” said Jesse Fielding, who serves as operations and logistics manager for AAOT. “Roy Disney gave us the opportunity to learn the skills needed to race on the ocean, and we have continued building on those skills.”
Enright, a four-time Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association All-American at Brown University recently competed in team race championships in Australia and England and took home top marks in the 2010 Caribbean 600. Towill, a senior at Brown University, is an active member of the Brown Sailing Team and after his Morning Light career he sailed in the 2008 Pacific Cup and 2009 Transpac Race. Fielding skippered his University of Rhode Island keelboat team in the 2009 Collegiate World Cup in France and has competed in numerous ocean races including the 2009 Transpac and the 2010 Caribbean 600 Race. Branning, a star navigator in the 2009 IRC East Coast Championships and the 2010 Newport to Ensenada Race, recently took home first place in the 2010 Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Selection of the 2011 AAOT Team
The All-American Offshore Team for 2011 is currently accepting resumes (deadline March 1) from sailors between the ages of 18 and 30. A minimum of 10 sailors will be selected and Enright, Towill, Fielding, Branning and Noble will round out Vanquish’s crew.
In late-May 2011, prior to the Storm Trysail Club Around Block Island Race, the full team will congregate at USMMA headquarters in New York to participate in a Safety at Sea Seminar and begin practice. In early June, the 2011 AAOT will relocate to Annapolis, Maryland for the start of the Annapolis to Newport Race. Following that, in late June, will be an offshore training session held in Newport, R.I., as the final preparation for the 2,975 nautical mile Transatlantic Race, which takes place in late June 2011 and finishes in the U.K. In August 2011, the team will remain in the U.K. to prepare for the Rolex Fastnet Race.
“Positive support from all corners of the sailing community is needed to get this team off the ground and on to the water,” said Charlie Enright, AAOT’s sailing team manager. “We finally have the chance to shine light on a new generation of offshore sailors and need to seize the opportunity.”