The windward hull of Brian Lambert's black catamaran skimmed the surface of the water as he sailed upwind towards the finish line. Lambert calmly steered the boat through the four-foot surf and onto the beach, then he jumped off the boat and high-fived his crew Jamie Livingston in front of a throng of photographers, TV crews, and journalists. Lambert and Livingston, representing Alexander's on the Bay, had just put the finishing touches on a dominating performance in the Worrell 1000, completing the grueling, 13-stage course more than three hours quicker than runners up Rod Waterhouse and Katie Pettibone of Team Guidant
The Worrell 1000 is an endurance marathon that starts in Miami Beach and hurtles 1000 miles up the coast to finish in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The race is sailed in Inter 20s, high-performance, double-trapeze, catamarans capable of speeds in excess of 25 knots. Each day the racers push their boats out through the surf, sail 60 to 120 miles in the open ocean, and then surf their fragile steeds onto the beach where the finish line is typically positioned 20 feet up the sand from the water. Two of the legs are contested at night, putting a premium a good navigation and GPS work.
This year's race was physically brutal and mentally trying from beginning to end. The damage to boat and body was extensive on the first three legs when the fleet was hammered by easterly winds gusting to 35 knots and a gigantic swell. 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. Tom Weaver of Pyacht
broke his ankle minutes later as his boat crashed down on top of him in the huge surf. Glenn Ross and Richard Pleasants of team Bay Wind
suffered bruised rips and a demolished boat in the surf at Cocoa Beach. Then, at the start of Leg Three at Jensen Beach, the crashing waves were spreader high (12 feet), and only five of the 20 teams made it through the surf line that morning. The other 15 boats were dismasted or snapped rudders and had to settle for trailering up US 95 to the next stopover.
Later in the event the wind shut off and the race became a mental game of attrition. The sailors suffered through three straight 12-plus-hour days, the longest of which spanned 17 hours for some of the teams. The fleet left Atlantic Beach, NC at 10:00 a.m. and the last boat didn't cross the finish line at Hatteras until 3:30 the next morning. With a 10:00 a.m. start that morning the racers were wearing down. The frustrating conditions and long hours of exposure caused Kirk Newkirk and Glenn Holmes of Key Sailing and Brad Cavanaugh and Suzette Cruz to drop out just one leg from the finish.
Overall winners Lambert and Livingston, who are now five-time Worrell 1000 veterans, finished in front in all but four of the 13 legs. Midway through the event Lambert characterized this year’s contest as "the amateur year," due to the absence of competitors like six-time winner Randy Smyth and several other professional teams. But he said it was nonetheless competitive as several other teams simply suffered bad luck on the early legs, allowing he and Livingston to build a substantial lead halfway through.
To finish the Worrell 1000 a sailor must possess luck certainly, but also a unique blend of skills. The ideal competitor is a fast catamaran sailor who's extremely fit. He or she should be organized on logistics and have a steady hand with a tool. They must also have excellent heavy weather survival skills. And finally, to compete for this trophy a racer must have the patience of Job.
This year’s fleet came to the Worrell 1000 for a variety of reasons. Some were here to race, some just to try to finish, and some to witness the beauty of a sail up the barrier beaches of the South Atlantic coast. Others came for the chance to challenge themselves and learn more about how they 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."
Mike Worrell is already working on next year's race. This year he added a helicopter for media and photographers, next year he plans to do a TV program and to introduce a cash prize. Since the event was brought out of mothballs in 1997, the fleets have grown larger and the attention of the sailing world has begun to focus more closely on this unique event. "I couldn't feel better about the future for this race; we are truly on the launching pad," said a beaming Worrell at the finish. And if this year's event serves as an indicator, he could be right.
Here Comes the Worrell 1000 by Dan Dickison
Slow Going in the Worrell 1000 by SailNet
Raucous Start to the Worrell 1000 by SailNet
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