Young Americans come good

Ex Morning Light sailors secure a Turkish sponsor and announce the Volvo Ocean Race's fifth entry

Thursday January 30th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States

Seven years ago, a couple of young American sailing addicts met on the set of a Disney movie and dreamed of the day that they would launch a campaign in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Today that apparently long-shot ambition became a reality when Team Alvimedica’s challenge for the 2014-15 edition was announced in Istanbul, home of minimally-invasive medical technologies sponsor, Alvimedica.

Mark Towill was just 18 when he met Charlie Enright, four years older, as a fellow young star in the Disney sailing movie, Morning Light. The reality film followed a cross-Pacific boat voyage and made use of some of the biggest names in offshore sailing.

Enright, now 29, picks up the story: “We met during the trials for that – we both considered that project to be the beginning of our dream, which is the Volvo Ocean Race.

“We’ve had a lot of Volvo veterans as our coaches on the Morning Light shoot – Stan Honey, Mike Sanderson, Jerry Kirby – and they set up the foundations for us in terms of high-level ocean racing.”

Mark Towill, together with Enright set up their own company, All-American Ocean Racing out of Newport, Rhode Island where the Volvo Ocean Race will be stopping in May, 2015. He added: “That vision has been quite clear for a while and has served as motivation for all that we’ve been doing.

“It’s not been easy by any means despite the great start we had with the Disney movie. 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.”

Slowly their dream began to take concrete shape and in 2011, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad invited the pair to Alicante for the start of the 11th edition in October that year.

After dropping most other commitments in the search for a title sponsor, Enright and Towill found the ambitious, young Turkish company Alvimedica to make their dream a reality.

Being a young company, there is a synergy with between Alvimedica and its sailing team, which will predominantly drawn from a pool of under 30 year olds. Alvimedica's accent is on being agile, innovative and not afraid to take bold business calls like taking on the huge U.S. market has helped it become one of Turkey’s fastest growing young companies and now management want to broaden its horizons by conquering new territories abroad topped by the United States.

Enright, who will be skipper, and Towill are the only crew confirmed for Team Alvimedica so far and the next step will be trials for as many of the best young offshore sailors as they can find.

“The plan is that we’ll look at people in the States first but expand that to take in young sailors from around the world too, including Turkey and Italy,” said Towill.

Frostad was delighted to welcome both team and title sponsor as the race’s fifth confirmed team for the 12th edition: "This is one of the most exciting new teams I've seen since I’ve started this job. Team Alvimedica is everything I have dreamed of since 2008 when I joined the race management: young people taking the initiative to start a project.

“We also welcome a new sponsor coming from Turkey. There has been a lot of interest from Turkey in the last race and it’s a country where sailing is growing. This is a medical technology company focused on the heart. I reckon the Volvo Ocean Race is one of the toughest physical and cardiac challenges in the world, so that will make for an interesting study!”

The team’s CEO will be Bill Erkelens, a well known name in U.S. sailing who played a leading role in the management of several America’s Cup teams.

Alvimedica CEO Dr Cem Bozkurt added: "As a young company we have a tremendous ambition in the global market. We have the same targets in sailing as well.

“Volvo Ocean Race is a rapid and dynamic event which utilises the latest technology, just like Alvimedica. We are proud to have the Turkish flag for the first time on an entry of the most challenging sailing event in the world."

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