Creating Pathways for Aspiring Professional Sailors

 In The Ocean Race, Partners, Sailing

Offering a once in a lifetime opportunity for aspiring American sailors, the team is bringing back their career-shaping internship program that will follow the crew as they take on The Ocean Race 2022-23.

The program is a result of our renewed partnership with Oakcliff Sailing, Oyster Bay, NY, and gives young adults a chance to gain valuable insight into the day-to-day happenings of a professional offshore sailing team.

As they are taken under the wings of our 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 a 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 team’s 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 us on the ground, as our sailors circumnavigate the globe in one of the world’s toughest endurance events.

While we were back at our base in Newport, Rhode Island for the Fall, we welcomed our 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 a better performance on the water.”

The internship program is a result of a ten-year partnership between Oakcliff Sailing and our 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 Mark. “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 unrivalled 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.

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. Photo by Kristi Wilson | 11th Hour RacingCullen Zelenka, an intern from Oakcliff Sailing, worked on the 11th Hour Racing Team shore crew during the Fall 2020 training session in Newport, RI. Cullen cleaning the Team’s IMOCA 60 after an offshore training session with eco-friendly Ecoworks Marine cleaning products.
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.
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. Photo by Kristi Wilson | 11th Hour RacingCullen Zelenka, an intern from Oakcliff Sailing, worked on the 11th Hour Racing Team shore crew during the Fall 2020 training session in Newport, RI. During his time in Newport, Cullen balanced his University school work and working with the team. Taking breaks throughout the day for lectures, exams, and studying.
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. Photo by Kristi Wilson | 11th Hour RacingCullen Zelenka, an intern from Oakcliff Sailing, worked on the 11th Hour Racing Team shore crew during the Fall 2020 training session in Newport, RI. Cullen was responsible for the team’s onsite waste management program - sorting and weighing the Team’s waste.

Latest News