Setting a course for a new generation of ocean racers, the All- American Offshore Team (AAOT) has announced its 2011 sailing roster and embarked on a very ambitious inaugural season that includes the 66th Block Island Race, the Annapolis to Newport Race, the Transatlantic Race 2011 and the Rolex Fastnet Race.
With a mission of providing “high-performance offshore training opportunities for an up and coming generation of American ocean racing leaders,” the AAOT is an extension of the nonprofit U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Sailing Foundation, in partnership with Oakcliff Sailing Center and the Storm Trysail Club. The AAOT Advisory Board includes USMMA Sailing Foundation Foundation President Ralf Steitz, Oakcliff Sailing Center’s Executive Director Dawn Riley and USMMA’s Waterfront Director Chris Gasiorek.
Steitz has wanted to create a youth-driven ocean racing program for many years, and a German youth team’s entry in this year’s Transatlantic Race provided the spark. After an extensive selection process, nine sailors between the ages of 18 and 30 were selected to join the AAOT Management Team of Charlie Enright, Chris Branning, Jesse Fielding, Mark Towill and Matt Noble. The team’s ride is the STP 65 Vanquish, which was donated to the USMMA in 2008.
“In just four weeks we received over 250 applications,” said Towill, the AAOT’s General Manager. “What it really came down to was offshore sailing experience and the diversity of additional qualifications. Our schedule doesn’t allow for much training and it’s vital that we put our best foot forward.” Though the team has been selected for the 2011 season, the AAOT hopes to increase its sailing schedule to include other applicants in the future. “We want it to be clear that all 250 who applied are considered to be a part of the All-American Offshore Team movement,” said Fielding, the team’s Operations and Communications Manager. “This is just the group that will be participating this summer.”
“I am extremely excited and honored to be named to the All- American Offshore Team,” said Kaity Storck of Huntington, NY. “Team Captain and longtime friend Charlie Enright first approached me to gauge my interest in the team in late January. Of course, I was overwhelmingly interested! Ocean racing is an area of sailing in which I have not had much experience, simply because I have really not been presented the opportunity.”
“As a young female sailor who has primarily raced dinghies and small keelboats, this is a very difficult scene to break into,” said Storck, a two-time collegiate All American (Tufts), the 2008 ICSA Women’s College Sailor of the Year and 2008 NEISA Women’s Sportsmanship Award winner, whose recent accomplishments include victories at the 2011 Team Racing Midwinters (skippering with her brothers John and Erik) and the 2010 J/80 North Americans (sailing with her brothers and father John Storck).
“Going into this season’s racing, I think our expectations are high but attainable,” Storck continued. “We want to do as well as we can and finish at the top…it would be great to beat the German youth team for sure. I think the higher goal is that everyone comes out of this with the capabilities and enthusiasm for ocean racing to do it again and to do it better. And of course, to have a really great time sailing across the ocean!”
The youngest member of the team, 19-year-old Nate Fast of Noank, CT, is looking forward to working with sailors that have inspired him in the past (Branning, Enright, Fielding and Towill were part of the crew that sailed Roy Disney’s TP 52 Morning Light in the 2007 Transpac Race, and were featured in the documentary film Morning Light.). “I was too young to participate when the Morning Light Project was underway but I always admired the crew,” said Fast. “Offshore racing is completely different than any other type of racing. There is so much complexity and it requires large amounts of detail and work.”
Fast, a competitor since his days on the junior sailing circuit, has sailed keelboats for the past four years and is a member of his college team at Webb Institute in Glen Cove, NY. His most significant achievements include a first-place finish in the IRC division of the 2007 Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex aboard Bob & Farley Towse’s R/P 66 Blue Yankee, as well as his first offshore experience in the 2008 Newport to Bermuda Race on Lenny Sitar’s J/44 Vamp. “Being the youngest means I will definitely be working that much harder to prove myself,” said Fast, “which will probably help me in the end.”
Prior to the start of the Block Island Race on May 27, the 2011 AAOT will meet at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, to participate in the Safety-at-Sea Seminar and begin their first practice. They will relocate to Annapolis, MD for the start of the Annapolis to Newport Race on June 3, followed by an offshore training session – the final preparation for the Transatlantic Race 2011 (2,975 nautical miles from Newport, RI to The Lizard, UK; starts July 3). In August, the team will compete in the 608 nautical mile Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts August 14.
The 2011 All-American Offshore Team
Benjamin Allen (Newport, RI), age 24
Chris Branning (Pace, FL), age 25
Charlie Enright (Bristol, RI), age 26
Nate Fast (Noank, CT), age 19
Jesse Fielding (Wickford, RI), age 24
Matt Noble (Richmond, CA), age 25
Colin Orsini (Seattle, WA), age 27
Benjamin Quatromoni (Tiverton, RI), age 24
David Rasmussen (Novato, CA), age 24
Molly Robinson (San Francisco, CA), age 23
Pat Showell (Sweetwater, NJ), age 24
Kaity Storck (Huntington, NY), age 23
Mark Towill (Kaneohe, HI), age 22
Chris Welch (Gross Pointe, MI), age 23