US sailors return to Volvo with Vestas 11th Hour Racing

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SAN DIEGO (AP) Americans Charlie Enright and Mark Towill are returning to the Volvo Ocean Race with new sponsors and an emphasis on environmental awareness.

The Brown University alumni announced their Vestas 11th Hour Racing team on Tuesday in Newport, Rhode Island. It will sail under the Danish and American flags.

Enright and Towill tied for fourth with Team Alvimedica, an American-Turkish entry, in the seven-boat fleet in the 2014-15 edition of the round-the-world race. They were the first to round Cape Horn and won the final leg in their first attempt at the marquee ocean race.

They have spent most of their time since the end of that race raising money for the next one, which starts in October.

''It's been a long struggle to get here,'' Towill said by phone. ''Charlie and I are quite proud of what we've accomplished together. Having raised the money and done the race has been quite gratifying. We're thankful to have another opportunity.''

Vestas 11th Hour Racing plans to call attention to renewable energy, the health of the oceans and marine debris.

''With this race, we have the opportunity to see some of the most remote and beautiful places in the world, but we also see some of the most polluted places in the world,'' Enright said. He said the worst was in the Malacca Strait off Southeast Asia.

''It's eye-opening and depressing,'' Towill said. ''There's a pretty big correlation between pollution and population. There's something there for sure. Once you see that stuff, you want to do something about it. You have an innate sense of responsibility to bring about change no matter how you can. We're only two guys, but with this race, hopefully we can make a big impact.''

Enright, of Bristol, Rhode Island, and Towill, of Kaneohe, Hawaii, will sail the same boat they did in the 2014-15 race.

Vestas, a Danish manufacturer of wind turbines, returns after the boat it sponsored in the last Volvo Ocean Race ran aground on a reef in the Indian Ocean. The boat was salvaged, rebuilt and rejoined the fleet late in the race.

Vestas spokesman Thomas John McMaw said the company's ideals match up well with those of Enright and Towill, and 11th Hour Racing, which focuses on the health of the oceans.

''As a collective, this is a great opportunity to win an important race around our planet, and do so whilst promoting a strong sustainable agenda,'' McMaw said in an email.

He said the company didn't hesitate to return as a sponsor after the accident in the last edition.

''Vestas has been challenged by and overcome setbacks in the past, both in the previous edition of the race, as well as within the wind energy industry,'' McMaw said. ''We take on this project with a legacy which we respect and which we learn from, but one that will not define the outset of the upcoming race. We're in it for great results, supporting our team, our partners, and focusing on our own commercial goals.''

The Volvo Ocean Race begins Oct. 22 from Alicante, Spain, and will cover 45,000 nautical miles. It will make 10 stops, including in Newport, before finishing in The Hague. The boats will make a ''fly by'' of Aarhus, Denmark, on the final leg between Gothenburg and The Hague.

Only four teams have entered so far.

Towill said he and Enright learned a lot from the last race.

''Our ambition this time is to win. Nothing short of that,'' he said. ''We want to be competitive.''


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