It’s official—Volvo Ocean Race veterans Mark Towill and Charlie Enright will campaign an IMOCA 60 in The Ocean Race 2021-22. Their team, 11th Hour Racing, has become one of the first official entries in the round-the-world race, which is open to both the Volvo 65 one-design boats that competed in the last two VORs and the 60ft IMOCA foilers that have historically been sailed by one or two people.
Best known for the Vendée Globe round-the-world solo race, the IMOCA 60s represent a big departure from the kinds of boat the American pair have campaigned in past ocean races. The 11th Hour Racing team has purchased Briton Alex Thomson’s former Hugo Boss, which came second in the last edition of the Globe, to help them transition into the rarified world of high-speed foiling boats.
“After campaigning one-design boats in the last two Volvo races—Team Alvamedica in 2014-15 and Vestas 11th Hour Racing in 2018-19—we were ready for a new challenge,” Towill said. “This [foiling] is a new discipline for us. We’ve been sailing the boat all summer, both shorthanded and with crew, to get a feel for it. It’s been an exciting transition.
“Unlike the one-designs, which have enough crew that some can specialize in various roles, the IMOCAs will sail with only five on board, which means that every one of us will have to be able to do just about anything from navigation to foredeck work, sail repairs and so on,” Towill said. “That’s going to be the major factor in crew selection.”
The team has been based in Port-la-Foret, in Brittany, where there is a training camp for solo ocean sailors—a discipline in which the French excel—and where they’ve been learning from some of the world’s best shorthanded racers.
French veteran Pascal Bidegorry has also been drafted to pair with Enright for the doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre, one of the major events on the shorthanded racing calendar. The 11th Hour Racing Team is expected to announce a new Guillaume Verdier design, which will be the first IMOCA to be designed and built for the Ocean Race.