The 2001 Worrell 1000 has come to a close and will forever be remembered as the upside down race.
The fleet beat upwind to the finish yesterday with the windward hulls just out of the water while the crews sat on the windward hull. Brian Lambert and Jamie Livingston of Alexander's on the Bay put the finishing touches on a dominating performance, winning the leg by one minute and 37 seconds over Team Guidant, sailed by Rod Waterhouse and Katie Pettibone.
Today's leg was another shifty affair. The day started with a westerly wind blowing off the beach at 12 knots. The boats reached along the beach in flat water for nearly half of the 60 mile leg, but around the Virginia border the wind shifted north and then the fog came in. Later the North wind strengthened to 20 knots. For several miles the fleet went upwind towards the finish in the fresh breeze, but it slowly tapered until the sailors were unable to trapeze near the finish. "It was definitely a day where it didn't pay to be the leader early," noted Katie Pettibone of team Guidant, "we were well ahead, but then the fleet caught up when the wind shifted and the fog came in."
In 3rd place at the finish of today's leg was Tommy Bahama, sailed by Nigel Pitt and Alex Shafer. Pitt and Shafer improved dramatically during the race. The duo are catamaran veterans and the new boat took them a little while to sort out, but they will be back next year. "Our sponsor really loved the race," said a tired but jubilant Shafer.
Rounding out the top ten were Sail for Sight, sailed by Carl Roberts and David Lennard, in 4th, Castrol in 5th, Team Tybee in 6th, Earnyourpotential.com in 7th, Dinghy Shop in 8th, Lexis Nexis in 9th and Team Outer Banks in 10th.
Lambert and Livingston mounted a professional effort that drew on 5 years of groundwork that Beatle Bailey has been laying with Team Alexander's. "The nucleus of the team and the shore crew have been together for 5 years and Jamie and Brian have been with us for 4 years," explained Bailey. When asked how many years of work went into this effort Lambert replied, "my whole sailing career." The final margin of victory was 3 hours, 8 minutes and 18 seconds. Guidant took a 1/2 hour penalty earlier in the race for a crew substitution and lost critical time with a major rudder breakdown that forced them to the beach between Jensen Beach and Cocoa Beach. But Alexander's would have won comfortably even if Guidant were given all that time back.
Rod Waterhouse sailed with 3 different crews in this race, but he sailed the majority of the legs with professional sailor Katie Pettibone. It was Pettibone's first try at the Worrell 1000 and she ranked it as challenging as the Volvo Ocean race. Asked how to prepare best for the race she replied, "Train Hard." Waterhouse was effusive in his praise of Pettibone, but he missed his partner Brett Dryland who was unable to sail this year due to business commitments. "I really missed [Brett], but we had a good time sailing together," said the modest Waterhouse. He and Dryland have won this race twice previously.
The top two teams ran away from the fleet this year, but there was some extremely close racing in the middle of the pack. Tommy Bahama was third overall, less than an hour ahead of Sail for Sight. And 5th place Tybee, 6th place Dinghy Shop, 7th place Lexis Nexis and 8th place Castrol all finished within an hour after more than 1000 miles of sailing.
To finish the Worrell 1000 a sailor must possess a unique blend of skills. The ideal Worrell 1000 competitor is a fast beach catamaran sailor in a wide variety of weather conditions. He or she is extremely fit. He should be organized with logistics and have a steady hand with a tool. She must have excellent heavy weather survival skills. And finally, to compete for this trophy a racer must have the patience of Job.
The racers choose to enter the Worrell 1000 for a wide variety of reasons. Some are here to race, some just to try to finish. Some see the beauty in a sail up the barrier beaches of the South Atlantic coast. Some others see a chance to challenge themselves and learn more about how they will react to extremely trying conditions.
Race founder Mike Worrell has his own view. "To me it's the personal challenge of doing something that puts yourself in danger where only your wits and ability to deal with your surroundings can assure your safety. Then overlay top competition and you've got an extreme sporting event similar to the Volvo Ocean race. I don't know why these people do it, but that's why I started it."
To finish the Worrell 1000 is no easy feat. This year the fleet eroded slowly. Four sailors sustained major, race-ending injuries in the strong winds and huge surf of the first 4 legs. At the finish of the first leg, Sandra Tartaglino of team Guidant shattered her leg in 2 places when the boat stopped abruptly on the sand at the finish of the leg. Tom Weaver of Pyacht broke his ankle minutes later as his boat crashed down on top of him in the surf. Glenn Ross and Richard Pleasants of team Bay Wind suffered bruised ribs and a demolished boat in the surf at Cocoa Beach. Kirk Newkirk and Glenn Holmes of Key Sailing and Brad Cavanaugh and Suzette Cruz of Red Hook dropped out in the infuriatingly light winds off Cape Hatteras, just one leg from the finish. Racing a small catamaran in survival conditions on the open ocean and suffering16 hours of exposure in drifting conditions can test a sailor, physically and mentally.
The boats are all up on the beach here in Virginia Beach and a big party has begun with the racers, shore crews and spectators. Several thousand people watched the finish today, cheering as the sailors surfed into the checkerboard winner's circle. Two Irishmen joined the group taking pictures. They asked Mike Worrell to autograph their Worrell 1000 hats. A surprised Worrell asked them why they would want his autograph and they replied that the Worrell 1000 is a huge event in their country. They explained their plans for a similar staged race around Ireland.
Mike Worrell hasn't slept much for the past week. He worries about the sailors, the race officials, the shore crew, and most importantly the race. This race is a labor of love for Worrell. "I think this was the toughest race ever," commented Worrell, "I couldn't feel better about the future for this race, we are truly on the launching pad."
Let's hope that's true. This race is a tremendous opportunity that beckons any sailor who's looking for a new experience, a different way to experience sailing and the ocean.