Extreme Sport legends join 11th Hour Racing Team

52nd Newport Bermuda Race

By Helena Touhey

Big wave surfer Ian Walsh and Olympic snowboarder Elena Hight are sailors for the week

It’s an exciting week for sailing in Newport as nearly two hundred boats prepare to compete in the Newport Bermuda Race. Among those race boats is 11th Hour Racing’s Mālama, a 60-foot IMOCA monohull yacht skippered by Charlie Enright, who is joined by crew members Justine Mettraux and Amory Ross, along with two special guests: big wave surfer Ian Walsh and Olympic snowboarder Elena Hight, both well-known for setting records within their extreme sports and relatively new to the world of open water sailing. The Newport Life team met with Charlie, Ian and Elena to talk about the race, sailing and being in the City-by-the-Sea.

“We’re lucky to have these guys — they are exceptionally talented at what they do,” said Enright, who noted the sports of surfing and snowboarding both require the same sort of mental stamina essential for sailing. Walsh and Hight boarded Mālama earlier this week for an overnight trial sail. “It was as picturesque of an evening as you’re going to get,” said Walsh, who’s no stranger to Newport. The surfer was born here and still has lots of family who live here. “I have a deep appreciation for Newport,” he said.

“I’ve been in and around boats my entire life,” Walsh said. He previously sailed — with Amory Ross and others — from Tahiti to Hawaii, where he lives. That trip, which departed in January 2018, taught him “the real bread and butter of what I understand about sailing,” he said, equating the experience to learning how to surf again. Soon after that trip, Walsh won his biggest surf competition, which he said may have been a result of having just spent so much time on the water and being in tune with the ocean in a new way. “I learned a lot from sailors about how they read the ocean and the clouds,” he said.

For Hight, this is her first open water sail, and she admitted the experience is a bit outside her comfort zone. Still, she’s excited and especially thrilled at the opportunity to use sports as a catalyst for environmental awareness. “11th Hour has such a strong sustainability message — they are doing so much for ocean health,” she said, noting everything is interconnected and ocean health is linked with mountain health.

Mālama departs Newport at a start time of 1:20 p.m. on Friday, June 17th. Enright hopes to arrive in Bermuda within 35-40 hours and as of Thursday afternoon said the winds were looking favorable. To follow the race via the race tracker, click on the link below.

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