The Cruising Club of America has awarded its 2010 Blue Water Medal to Australian Alex Whitworth for a circumnavigation of the world via the Northwest Passage West to East. The first Blue Water Medal was awarded in 1923 and it is given “for a most meritorious example of seamanship, the recipient to be selected from among the amateurs of all the nations.” The award will be presented on March 4, 2011 by CCA Commodore Sheila McCurdy during the CCA’s annual Awards Dinner at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.
Whitworth was born in an air raid shelter on the island of Malta (Southern Europe) in 1942 and spent most of his childhood near Manchester, England or wherever his father was stationed at the time. His father, Alexander Whitworth, a Royal Navy pilot, taught him to sail at a young age. At nineteen, Whitworth also joined the Royal Navy and became an observer on carrier-based Sea Vixen aircraft until 1965. In 1966, Whitworth emigrated to Australia and joined Adastra Aerial Surveys where he worked both full and part time until 1975.
In 1993, Whitworth and his partner Hilary Yerbury purchased Berrimilla, a Brolga 33 designed by Australian Peter Joubert. Since the purchase, Whitworth has circumnavigated the world twice aboard Berrimilla. The first time began in 2004 when Whitworth sailed to the U.K. via Cape Horn. On the way, Berrimilla was in frequent contact with Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Commander of the International Space Station (ISS) and for much of the time, Chiao was Whitworth’s nearest neighbor when the ISS orbit crossed her track. When Whitworth arrived in the U.K., Berrimilla competed in the 2005 Rolex Fastnet Race, finishing 11th overall and second in the double-handed division. After the Fastnet, Whitworth completed the circumnavigation aboard Berrimilla by returning to Sydney, Australia, via the Cape of Good Hope, arriving just in time to sail in the 2005 Rolex Sydney-Hobart race.
The second circumnavigation began in 2008 when, as a result of Berrimilla‘s communication with the ISS, Whitworth was invited by NASA scientists to rendezvous at Beechy Island in the Canadian Arctic. The plan was to view the solar eclipse on August 1, 2008, so Whitworth set out on April 10, 2008, sailing directly from Sydney to the Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and then through the Northwest Passage.
Due to dangerous ice conditions, Berrimilla bypassed Beechey Island and arrived in Falmouth (U.K.) in September. That winter, the boat was stored in the U.K. and then competed in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. After the race, Berrimilla sailed home to Australia via the Cape of Good Hope and the Kerguelen Islands and arrived in Sydney on March 2010 having completed her second circumnavigation of the globe.
In addition to presenting its Blue Water Medal, the CCA will present the following 2010 Awards:
The Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship will be awarded to Alessandro Di Benedetto (Rome, Italy) for his resourcefulness when jury rigging Findomestic, a 21-foot monohull, near the rounding of Cape Horn in 2009. Alessandro is known for his single-handed open ocean voyages and has been commended for the many records he has surpassed.
The Far Horizons Award will be awarded to William E. Cook for a series of commendable voyages to the far north of the globe including cruises to Greenland and Baffin Island, Canada. Cook has been adventuring since the 1970’s and his last cruise was to Greenland in 2010 on his sailboat Resolution, a 56-foot Bristol Sloop. At home, on the East Coast, Bill runs Cook Yacht Design which designs racing and cruising sailboats ranging from 10 to 85 feet.
The Richard S. Nye Trophy will be awarded to Robert A. VanBlaricom who has brought distinction to the Cruising Club of America by meritorious service, outstanding seamanship, and outstanding performance in long distance cruising. He has been a member of the Club since 1964 and has served on many committees over the years. He has been awarded the John Parkinson Memorial Trophy twice for transoceanic passages; one was in a 39-foot steel-hulled sloop named Seabear, which he built with a partner. In the past, Bob has been awarded the CCA’s Charles H. Vilas Literary Prize, and the Royal Cruising Club Trophy and he has been Rear Commodore of the San Francisco Station of the CCA. As an author, he wrote and self-published his sailing autobiography, Time and Tide.
Click here for more information about the award winners and the Cruising Club of America