Leg six began in a five knot easterly, but the breeze built an hour into the race and the whole fleet was soon trapezing with spinnakers flying.
The 12 - 15 knot breeze slowly shifted from East to South during the course of the day, offering plenty of options and some potential land mines to the racers.
Rod Waterhouse and Katie Pettibone of Guidant finally beat Alexander's on the Bay winning the 121 mile leg in close to 9 hours. Guidant jumped off the beach to a quick start by paddling through the surf and led the entire way. They shipped some water in their port hull during the day as a result of a small whole in their bow that they earned in an altercation with Alexander's while flopping in the surf at the start. Team Tybee, sailed by Steve Lohmayer and Kenny Pierce, finally got the monkey off their back and finished 3 minutes behind Guidant in second place. Alexander's on the Bay sailed through the fleet after a horrible start to finish third, 15 minutes off the pace. They still hold a comfortable lead, but there are plenty of hurdles left in this race and anything can happen.
Tommy Bahama, sailed by Nigel Pitt and Alex Shafer finished 4th with another solid leg and they were followed by Lexis Nexis, Castrol and Outer Banks. Team PI, Dinghy Shop and Sail for Sight rounded out the top ten.
Early in the race Dinghy Shop looked good with a position about a mile directly inshore of Guidant, but the breeze filled outside and then shifted South so North and Macdonald lost distance. Macdonald had trouble trapezing for more than 45 minutes at a time due to pain in his ribs. He bruised or cracked his ribs in a wipeout on an earlier leg.
As the wind filled in and the spinnakers went up the fleet faced some difficult choices. Most of the sailors knew the wind would shift towards the South over the course of the day, but when the wind filled it was still possible to sail straight down rhumb line to the finish. It was hard to decide whether to sail optimum Angle and take the lifting wind up and off-shore to gybe later, or to sag low sailing slower and still lay the finish line as the wind shifted to the South. The wind velocity exacerbated the difficult choice because it was in between single and double trapeze conditions with the spinnaker.
These Inter 20 catamarans are sailing at close to 20 knots in 15 knots of wind and sometimes it pays to sail higher with the spinnaker, creating more apparent wind and thus needing to put another person on the trapeze to keep the boat flat. If done properly the boat will head up for a moment and then accelerate and the apparent wind will more forward, allowing the skipper to bear off and effectively sailing the same angle to the wind, only faster.
Team Tybee worked up on Guidant by sailing lower with just one trapeze. Lohmayer and Pierce of Team Tybee have had some back luck in the race but they are quite fast and they haven't given up. "If we had 10 more miles we would have caught them," said a satisfied Pierce at the finish. Lohmayer believes they still have a chance to win the event, "four hours isn't too much in this race, there's a lot that can still happen here."
As the racers finished the long leg the beach was crowded with at least 500 Tybee locals who came out to cheer on their team. The crowd ran the gamut from formally dressed socialites sipping cocktails to a guy on a 4 wheel beach-board flying a kite-board kite and carving turns in the sand. His board looked like a skateboard with monster truck tires and he rolled through the crowd watching the boats surf up onto the beach.
Tybee Island loves this race. Chuck Bargeron is the owner of Team Tybee and he's been chasing this race for longer than anyone. The islanders are aware of the race and they put on a great show for the sailors and shore crew. From the Hospitality tent with food and drinks to a band playing outdoors and a low country boil, Tybee rolls out the red carpet for the Worrell 1000. People are friendly down here. Former Chamber of Commerce head Mike Scarborough stood on the sand waiting for the boats to hit the beach and explained how Tybee looks at this race, "these other cities should support a team like we have. Our guys have the whole town behind them. We need to create a festival around this event and I promise you it's going to grow bigger and bigger. If Tybee needs to be the front runner then we'll show everyone how to do it." Scarborough relayed a story that occurred two years ago when the fleet didn't hit the beach until 3 AM, "The sailors were starved and skippers stayed open just to feed the racers. That woman was all alone there and she fed everyone!"
Tomorrow the fleet gets the morning off as the race makes the switch to night mode. The start will be at 6 PM and the fleet will head up to Isle of Palms, just north of Charleston.