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  • Aaron Millar

The Ocean Race: Sailing Around the World with Pro Sailor Mark Towill



Follow professional sailor Mark Towill on The Ocean Race, the ultimate around-the-world sailing competition: nine months, and 45,000 nautical miles, through some of the toughest seas on the planet. Only the strongest sailors in the world are able to compete, and only for the glory. There is no prize money. The Ocean Race (formerly the Volvo Ocean Race) is the toughest team challenge in sailing, and arguably the most grueling competition in professional sports. But it's also one of the most beautiful. There is something nostalgic, even romantic, about the idea of sailing around the world powered by nothing but your wits and the wind. It harks back to the golden days of exploration. This is more than a race, this is a true adventure. Are you ready to sail around the world? Let's go.


Highlights: - Hear Mark Towill's incredible story of the 2017/18 Ocean Race - Find out what it feels like to sail around the whole world, powered by nothing but your wits and the wind - Learn about life on board the fastest sailboats on the planet, and the mental toughness required to survive the grueling conditions - Discover the adventure of the Southern Ocean, where Mark Towill experienced 65knot winds and seas of up to 30-feet tall - Find out about the tragedy that occurred in the waters off of Hong Kong, and the disaster that happened rounding Cape Horn - Hear about the early Polynesian explorers who inspired Mark Towill, who grew up in Hawai'i, and how he's now involved with helping to promote that culture and keep alive the traditional wayfinding of the early Polynesians. - Be inspired by Mark Towill, and his team 11th Hour Racing's, message of raising awareness about ocean sustainability and the problem of ocean plastics Benefits to You: - See the ocean through new eyes and be inspired to embark on your own high seas adventure - Learn how the mental toughness of round-the-world sailors can be applied to your own life in positive ways - Be inspired by this story of overcoming tragedy and hardships in pursuit of excellence, and the greater good - Be motivated to get involved with ocean sustainability and the fight to protect our oceans from plastic pollution


GALLERY

(all images courtesy of 11th Hour Racing, www.11thhourracing.org)

MARK TOWILL: Who's the Guest? Mark grew up sailing on the eastern shores of Oahu, Hawaii before racing at both the prestigious Punahou School and Brown University Sailing Team, where he sailed with fellow team co-founder Charlie Enright.


In 2008 at the age of 18, Mark was selected to participate in the 44th Transpac Race aboard Morning Light where he first met Charlie. Mark was the youngest member on the team and the experience crystallized his ultimate goal of competing in the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, which he did in 2014-15 with Team Alvimedica. The duo put together a second campaign for 2017-18 with Vestas 11th Hour Racing. Today, he is the CEO and co-skipper of 11th Hour Racing, whose goal is to win the 2021/22 Ocean Race whilst raising awareness and inspiring the sailing community and racing fans around the world with respect to environmental issues and ocean health. @11thhourracing https://11thhourracingteam.org https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqlcxiz-4f-4k6FPgIf2Yag


11TH HOUR RACING: More about Mark's team

From plastic pollution to climate change to the environmental impacts of our sport, our oceans are threatened. The clock is ticking. 11th Hour Racing works with the sailing community and maritime industries to advance solutions and practices that protect and restore the health of our ocean. Inspired by and furthering the mission of The Schmidt Family Foundation, 11th Hour Racing embraces sponsorships, grantees, and ambassadors who integrate sustainability into their values and operations while educating, innovating and inspiring people with the critical message of ocean stewardship.


We believe fostering environmentally sustainable practices on and off the water is critical to the restoration of our ocean and its vital resources. As one steers a boat with a gentle, steady hand, 11th Hour Racing strives to advance winning environment and performance practices one degree at a time.


If you're inspired to get more involved in the fight to protect our oceans, get in touch with the team at 11th Hour Racing to find out how you can support their work.


I also really like this charity: https://plasticoceans.org


THE OCEAN RACE: Background

Map (courtesy of Volvo Ocean Race) showing all 11 legs of the 2017/18 race, beginning in Alicante in southern Spain and finishing, nine months and 45,000 nautical miles later, in The Hague, Netherlands.


Please note the Volvo Ocean Race changed to simply, The Ocean Race, after 2017/18 edition. Copy below courtesy of the official race website (www.theoceanrace.com)


Since 1973, the Volvo Ocean Race has provided the ultimate test of a team and a human adventure like no other. Over four decades it has kept an almost mythical hold over some of the greatest ever sailors – and the 2017-18 edition will take the teams 45,000 nautical miles around the world, across four oceans, touching six continents and 12 landmark Host Cities.

The Volvo Ocean Race is often described as the longest and toughest professional sporting event in the world, sailing’s toughest team challenge and one of the sport’s Big Three events, alongside the Olympics and America’s Cup.

To truly understand the race, though, it’s better to think of it in a way the athletes who take part will recognise immediately.

 Put simply, the Volvo Ocean Race is an obsession, and many of the world's best sailors have dedicated years, even decades of their lives trying to win it.
 Take Sir Peter Blake, who competed in the first edition of what was then the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973-74 and came back again and again until he finally conquered his Everest, securing an overwhelming victory with Steinlager 2 in 1989-90. Only then was he able to fully turn his attention to other projects. 

The race sits, just as it always has, at the intersection of human adventure, and world-class competition. Thanks to the work of the Onboard Reporters embedded with every team, fans are given a unique insight into just what it takes to win a race that is relentless in its demands – as teams give everything they have, 24 hours a day, in pursuit of the tiny advantages that can make all the difference.


Because make no mistake – the competition is fierce. In the current era of One Design racing, the only way to win is by sailing harder, and smarter, than your competitors. The race is won out on the water; not in the design phase.



There is no prize money for the winners, but seeing your name etched into one of the silver rings of the Volvo Ocean Race Trophy is a prize beyond compare for sailors who grew up with dreams of emulating the legends of the race – heroic figures who dedicated their professional lives to chasing victory – people like Blake, Éric Tabarly, Conny van Rietschoten, Grant Dalton, Paul Cayard, Ian Walker.


The race’s concept is simple: it’s a round-the-clock pursuit of competitive edge and the ultimate ocean marathon, pitting the sport’s best sailors against each other across the world’s toughest waters.


Racing one-design Volvo Ocean 65s, the world’s best professional ocean racers drive themselves to out-work and out-perform their competition around the globe.
 It’s relentless: the importance of winning, the adventure of life on board, the transformative effect on the sailors — all of these combine to give the race its power and depth.
 In 2017-18, there is a renewed emphasis on the Southern Ocean and a new set of rules too – incentivising mixed crews of male and female sailors and more strategic innovation out on the racecourse.



(copy courtesy of www.theoceanrace.com)


Here's a cool video of the entire 2017/18 race in just 12 minutes:


And here's some awesome drone shots that really give you a sense of the speed and beauty of the boats



BOOK THIS TRIP

I like to help people plan their ultimate adventures. Sailing around the world is not for everyone, but if you're inspired to get some ocean inspiration into your life drop me a line - aaron@armchair-explorer.com


KARUN SUNGLASSES

In the episode I talk a little about my friends at Karun Sunglasses. They are one of Mark's sponsors and an amazing company who turn discarded plastic fishing nets, washed up on the beaches of Chilean Patagonia, into designer shades. They're not sponsoring the episode, I get no commission from this. I just think they're awesome and think you might too. www.karunworld.com


Here's a video, which sums up everything I love about them ...


And here's an article I wrote about them for National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/travel/2019/05/how-patagonia-tackling-plastic-problem



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