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11th Hour Racing Team provides unparalleled career stepping-stone for aspiring US sailors

by 11th Hour Racing Team 20 Nov 11:13 PST
Cullen Zelenka, an intern from Oakcliff Sailing, worked on the 11th Hour Racing Team shore crew during the Fall 2020 training session in Newport, RI. © Kristi Wilson | 11th Hour Racing

11th Hour Racing Team has renewed its partnership with Oakcliff Sailing to provide a career-shaping internship program for aspiring American sailors.

Designed for young adults interested in the professional yacht racing industry, the internship program will run in the lead up to, and for the duration of, The Ocean Race 2022-23.

The program allows interns the unique opportunity to gain a valuable insight into the day-to-day happenings of a professional offshore sailing team. As they are taken under the wings of the 11th Hour Racing Team shore crew, the interns learn valuable technical, boat building, and operational skills, in addition to understanding how sustainability can be integrated in all areas of operations in a professional sports team.

Based in Oyster Bay, NY, Oakcliff Sailing is an adult and youth training center for athletes who have progressed beyond traditional coaching methods and are motivated to take the next step in their sailing career. The unique curriculum offers trainees the opportunity to develop their skill set and network professionally in the three major areas of competitive sailing - The Ocean Race, America's Cup, and the Olympics through a number of means, including Oakcliff's summer Academies, Winter Sapling programs and High School Sapling program. The 11th Hour Racing Team interns are all graduates of Oakcliff’s Sapling program - the sailing center's off-season apprenticeship program, designed to help trainees kick-start their careers in the sailing industry.

The internship initiative builds on the success of a similar program implemented in the last edition of The Ocean Race, in which two Oakcliff graduates interned at each stopover. The new program is set to offer over 24 interns the opportunity to join 11th Hour Racing Team on the ground, as they circumnavigate the globe in one of the world's toughest endurance events.

With the team back at their base in Newport, Rhode Island for the Fall, they welcomed their first Oakcliff intern of the season, Cullen Zelenka, 19, who joined the crew from mid-August to late October. During his time with the Team, Cullen was integrated into the shore crew, learning about a number of green boating practices in the marina, such as using a water filter to avoid single-use plastics for offshore training sessions and the importance of using marine-safe cleaning products on the boat. He was also responsible for the onsite waste management at the team base, putting into practice sustainable initiatives such as composting.

"Working with 11th Hour Racing Team has been an invaluable opportunity that came from my involvement with Oakcliff Sailing," Zelenka stated, "From helping the shore crew with foil modifications and doing light rigging work, to keeping the boat in pristine condition, every job was interesting and taught me something new. I was grateful to be looking over the shoulders of sailing professionals, learning first-hand as they tackled complicated tasks and problem-solved their way to better performance on the water."

The internship program is a result of a ten-year partnership between Oakcliff Sailing and Team Co-Founders, Mark Towill (Hawaii) and Charlie Enright (Rhode Island). Oakcliff has long supported their on-the-water endeavors, dating back to their very first offshore program - the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team.

"Here at 11th Hour Racing Team, we want to help young adults achieve their dreams of becoming professional sailors," explained Towill. "An internship with our Team doesn't just provide full immersion into the sport, it also teaches the importance of integrating sustainability in everything that we do. The US typically doesn't offer significant work experience opportunities within the sailing industry, so we want to plug that gap, helping our homegrown sailors achieve their dreams and realize their potential on the water."

Dawn Riley, Executive Director of Oakcliff Sailing commented, "This partnership truly sets Oakcliff Sailing apart. In providing this unrivaled access to experts within the sailing industry, students in the Oakcliff Sapling program are fully supported in achieving their goals. It's proven to work - Sean O'Halloran, who was an intern in the last Volvo Ocean Race, is now a sailor on US America's Cup team, American Magic. We look forward to seeing great things from all the interns."

The next intern will join 11th Hour Racing Team in early 2021.

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