Written by Andy Rice
17 April 2023
If overcoming adversity makes you stronger, watch out for Charlie Enright and his 11th Hour Racing Team after a series of testing moments in leg 3 left the team bloodied but unbowed.
One day, when the scars have had time to heal, Charlie Enright might be able to look back on Leg 3 of The Ocean Race and allow himself more than a wry smile. He might be able to look back on Leg 3 with a sense of pride.
Those 38 days at sea were among the hardest that the skipper of 11th Hour Racing Team has experienced in his three editions of the race.
“Leg 3 was brutal right from the start. We had 40 knots in Table Bay and 40 knots shortly after leaving Table Bay. And we immediately had a breakdown and had to suspend racing. Then a couple other breakdowns along the way.”
Quite a bit more than a couple of other breakdowns, as it turned out. ‘Keeping the wheels on the wagon’. Enright had predicted that this would be the priority even before they left Cape Town, and so it proved. It was every bit the war of attrition that he had feared and expected.
There were a number of times when Enright thought Leg 3 was over for them.
“When we delaminated our rudders, we had a serious conversation about stopping in New Zealand. Then when we broke the mainsail the first time we thought, hey, we’ll get to Brazil, but probably in an uncompetitive manner until we’re able to fix it and get the thing back to full hoist. And then certainly when the mainsail tore for the last time, I thought that was us done. For sure.”
Having just missed out to Malizia for second place at the scoring gate, the halfway point of the leg, was one of the hardest moments. “We had just torn the mainsail for the first time and we’d watched Malizia sail on by. We’d already gone through our rudder delamination and the boat was probably in its worst condition around that time.”
The usually very level-headed Enright doesn’t mind admitting that he lost his temper a few times during the leg. “For me, every time we we dealt with something in terms of breakage you have to take some time to vent. You know, that’s the time for anger. That’s the time for frustration. That’s the time for disbelief.
“But then very quickly, you need to kind of get all that out and move on. And once you do that, you’re confronted with two options. Give up or get on with it. And when you can boil it down to something that simple, it’s pretty easy to get everyone on board. They are a motivated group when you make it clear cut simple.”
When asked to look for a bright spot among all the low moments of Leg 3, Enright immediately goes to the unity of the crew.
“I think the highlight would be the way we came together as a team and dealt with all the adversity that was thrown our way. Particularly the mainsail, because it was such a big undertaking and it took everybody on the team to get it done in a timely manner. I mean, we’re under the clock so just seeing how the team rallied around it – the planning phase, the ingenuity, the execution, and watching it being successfully resolved, that was very rewarding to see.”
When 11th Hour Racing Team arrived in Itajaí, there was not much appetite for celebration. Just a sense of relief that the ordeal was over, even if the extensive work for the shore crew was only just beginning. “I think 38 days is a long time for five people to spend on a 60-foot boat in a competitive environment, in very trying conditions.
“This Southern Ocean leg is the longest I’ve been on a boat, full stop, period. By a good amount. March 2023 isn’t something that existed for me on land, you know, and I’ve got a family, a wife, two kids, and a mother. She still worries about me in her own way. Yeah, what I do certainly takes its toll on the people around me, so it’s a big sigh of relief to get back to shore safely.”
Now the race is on to have the IMOCA Mālama ready to take on Leg 4, a particularly important one for the American team bearing in mind it finishes in their home town of Newport, Rhode Island.
“When it comes to the boat, I think we have to be smart about the jobs that we choose to take on. If we can’t get the whole job list done in time, we have to prioritise and make sure we’re efficient with where we place our efforts.”
The early returns are positive, as Mālama was the second boat to return to the water in Itajaí, joining Team Malizia and GUYOT environnement – Team Europe (who have stayed in the water after arrival) dockside at Ocean Live Park.
While work continues at the dock, the team will be ready to race when the pro-am event starts on Wednesday – a remarkable achievement for the full squad.