We first got to know Chris Branning when he was barely out of diapers as part of Disney’s Morning Light program, and as a former shipmate of Mr. Clean (poor kid – ed)), and as he’s gone from grommet to sought-after offshore navigator to helicopter rescue pilot, we’ve seen what an incredible young man he has become. And when Charlie and Mark from Team Alvimedica brought him aboard their Volvo 65 during tryouts, we were extremely excited to see it – and not for Branning’s sake.
We see the US-skippered Alvimedica as having a genuine chance of really impacting the sport’s perception here in America, and Branning would make that about a hundred times easier. Branning is the anti-yachtie. He’s soft-spoken but extremely bright, wears his heart on his sleeve, is tall and good-looking without being intimidating, and he just oozes honesty and character. In other words, he’s a media dream. Add to that the fact that his job as pilot of a USCG Search-and-Rescue chopper makes him one of the only human beings on Earth that this divided America unanimously loves; the most ignorant redneck fisherman on the Florida panhandle is just as much of a fan of USCG rescue pilots as a Wall Street investment banker sailing his Concordia out of the NYYC.
Which makes this video all that more poignant, because no matter how much we wish it was, is isn’t a crew profile. Rather, longtime SA videographer and now VOR moviemaker Sam Greenfield put this movie together to show us that best intentions are not always enough, and that life can sometimes get in the way of the perfect opportunity; thanks to his demanding job saving lives, Branning will be watching this VOR from afar.
As you’d expect from a guy of his character, Branning is still 100% supportive of his friends, and he sent a few words over to share his thoughts on what they’ve done:
“I think it will take years before what the sailing world realizes what Mark and Charlie have done. For sailing to progress as a commercially viable sport, to compete against the mainstream sports especially in the USA, the process of fund sourcing had to shift. Sailing doesn’t need another watch captain, skipper, rigger, or trimmer; though we greatly appreciate the talents of those roles. Sailing needs “board-room” sailors. Educated, professional sailors who can take off the foul weather gear, put on a suit and walk into the board room to pitch, present, argue, defend, convince, cajole, and earn the money to go sailing at the highest level. That is what our sport needs. Few people can fathom the amount of work and risk that takes. Charlie and Mark, in their mid-twenties, did just that.
“They brought another boat to the starting line of the Volvo Ocean Race, and in the process, they paved the path for younger sailors to do the same. Did they change the sport forever? It’s too early to know that. But they did something no one has ever done here, and I salute them for it.”