Newport Ocean Race Stopover Is a Homecoming for Skipper Charlie Enright
The Bristol native discusses the race so far, growing up on Narragansett Bay and how he spends his down time before setting out on the next leg.
For Bristol native and 11th Hour Racing Team skipper Charlie Enright, last Wednesday’s arrival in Newport was like something out of a dream. After four months primarily at sea, including a grueling, thirty-seven-day leg around Australia and the tip of South America, the Rhode Island-based team pulled into port on a breezy, sunny afternoon. Not only that, but they finished the leg in first place, putting them just a point away from tying the lead in the leg to come.
“It was just amazing to see all the support, the people down at the fort,” Enright says during a recent phone interview, as he drove from the team base at Fort Adams State Park to his home in Barrington.
“It’s one thing to see likes on an Instagram photo, it’s another thing to see 10,000 of your closest friends waiting for you at the finish of a lifetime. It was wild. It was totally, totally wild. Almost surreal.”
The team’s victorious finish marked the end of leg four of the Ocean Race, the six-month, 37,000-mile race around the world. On Sunday, May 21, Enright and other competitors will depart for Aarhus, Denmark, the next stop on their seven-leg journey.
A Bristol native who later sailed as a four-time All-American captain at Brown University, Enright is no stranger to the waters of Narragansett Bay.
“My grandfather was a boatbuilder and I grew up in and around the boat shed. Babysitting for me when I was young was they’d put me in a little dinghy off the dock, tie a knot, put a lifejacket on me and let me entertain myself,” he says.
Enright now sails with a crew of four, including fellow Rhode Islander Amory Ross. Ross, who grew up in New Jersey and now considers Newport his home base, is a photographer and videographer who chronicles the race as the onboard reporter. Onboard reporters produce video and photo content but don’t participate in sailing the boat except in emergencies.
The team takes its name from 11th Hour Racing, a Newport-based organization committed to using sailing as a platform for improving environmental awareness around the ocean. For Enright, it’s a cause that hits close to home.
“As sailors, here in Rhode Island and abroad, we have a platform and we have a voice to speak about things that matter to us, and ocean health is certainly one of those things. Sustainability features in every single decision that we make a as a team,” he says. “I’ve been around the world three times now, and the first trip was really an awakening for me to some of the problems that we were seeing in some of our oceans, and the second trip was really about spreading that message, and now on our third lap of the planet, it’s about coming up with solutions to some of these problems. What are we going to actually do about it?
“I love that they’re a solution-based organization and they’re trying to tangibly tackle some of these problems,” he adds. “A lot of that happens locally in the marine community, and we try to showcase what a coastal community can look like, not only here, but around the world. It’s local solutions to global problems.”
Visitors to Fort Adams this weekend will see that ethos on display in Ocean Live Park. As part of the stopover — co-sponsored by 11th Hour Racing, Sail Newport and the state of Rhode Island — visitors can tour the One Blue Voice Immersive Experience, a multi-sensory exhibit that offers an up-close look at the ocean and its most pressing issues.
In the meantime, Enright is spending as much time as possible at home in Barrington with his wife and two young children, who came to see him off at two previous stopovers. Among the toughest parts of the race, he says, is leaving them behind when he and other team members depart for weeks-long stretches at sea, all crammed into a sixty-foot boat.
“We’re very lucky to do what we do, but it does mean time away from home. It is a big commitment. So for me, it starts with family,” he says. “The first thing I want to do [on land] is hug my kids and kiss my wife.
“Shortly after that, though, it’s probably a cheeseburger and a cold beer,” he adds.
The team is also spending time prepping for the next leg. After a difficult leg three finish, 11th Hour’s leg four comeback puts them in a prime position to compete for the lead on the next leg.
“Certainly a point off the lead, we’re in a different position than we were going into the last leg, but there’s a clump of boats all tied at the top, so it’s almost like the race has fully restarted. We’ll have to adopt some different strategies, but it’s a position we’re comfortable with and we’ll look forward to implementing those along the way,” Enright says.
As Rhode Islanders and visitors flock to Fort Adams to see the boats off this weekend, Enright urges them to remember the precious resource the state has in Narragansett Bay, and how fragile it remains amid the current climate crisis. Enright’s son has already started sailing, part of a new generation who will face the results of our current actions.
“I get to see all corners of the world whether I like it or not, and it always feels good to come home,” he says. “We’re really lucky to live here and have the natural gem that is Narragansett Bay in our backyard. The more people here in the state that can utilize that, access that, derive pleasure from that, appreciate the importance of it — we’re really lucky, and it shouldn’t go underestimated.”
To learn more about the Ocean Race and how you can see it this weekend, read our full roundup here.
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