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Ninety-Six Miles To Go
WaterTribe's NC Ultra Marathon Challenge
November 2, 2020

ighteen small sailing craft were slated to launch from Oriental in late October. They were to compete in a 96 mile race over 4 days. In the days leading up to the event, six dropped out due to weather concerns. Twelve made it to the water. Only one finished.

The event is WaterTribe’s North Carolina Ultra Marathon Challenge. WaterTribe is a group of sailors and kayakers who compete at an expert level in on-the-water racing expeditions ranging from 67 miles to over 1200 miles.

Originally scheduled for June, COVID-19 changed the timing of the Ultra Marathon Challenge. Rough weather from the remnants of Hurricane Zeta – the twenty-seventh named storm of 2020 – changed things again.

A map showing the 96 mile on the water course.
Ultra Marathon competitors leave Oriental and proceed counter clockwise around the course.

Steve Isaac is WaterTribe’s ‘chief’ and organizer. Inspired by the Eco-Challenge TV reality show of the late 1990s, Isaac created his own ultimate challenge, beginning in the waters of his home state of Florida in 2001. Since then, the challenges have expanded to North Carolina and Minnesota.

These events are not for the novice. As stated on the website, “WaterTribe events are dangerous and you must be an expert in your chosen craft before even considering these challenges. There are no safety boats, no safety net, and no excuses. Your safety and well being are up to you and only you.”

Participants must attest to their skill levels, demonstrate proficiency, and carry specific gear for each race.

Steve Pascone of Asheville, NC and his home built trimaran. This was Steve’s second WaterTribe event.

This is the first WaterTribe event to launch from Oriental; in past NC Ultra Marathon Challenges, participants struck out from Cedar Island.

The route took participants down to Beaufort, around Harkers Island, up to Cedar Island, and back to Oriental. Sailors had to prepare their routes carefully to avoid Bombing Target 11 at Piney Island, between Cedar Island and Oriental.

Initially, 3-4 days were allotted to finish the race. ‘Fast movers’ were expected to make it in 3 days, the rest in 4 days. Not every participant was expected to finish. “Many participants are more interested in cruising and adventure,” says WaterTribe’s site. “Just getting to the starting line is a major accomplishment, and many starters will not finish. The 2009 NCC finishers made up only 53% of the starters.”

When the weather changed, a few dropped out immediately. Though a weather delay is allowed if challengers are already on the water, some still had work and other obligations on Monday morning. The race start was adjusted from 7-9a on Thursday morning to as soon as competitors arrived and were ready.

Ninety-six miles later – Alan Stewart sailing onto Minuscule Beach at the end of his race.

Clubfoot Creek, with three low bridges requiring vessels to dismast to pass, was a requirement of the course. As weather predictions worsened, that route changed. Adams Creek (with no low bridges) was offered as an alternative.

In all, twelve vessels entered the water. Seven dropped out. Four attempted to hold out for better weather, but ultimately dropped out. Alan Stewart of B&B Yacht Designs (Vandemere) was the only one to complete the course.

He left Oriental at 5:27a Wednesday, Oct 28. He returned 27 hours and 35 minutes later, having sailed and paddled without stopping.

Competitors in the 2020 North Carolina Ultra Marathon Challenge:
• Alan Stewart
• Jeff Prideaux
• Ed Nelson & Don Maddox
• Kevin Lopez
• Daniel MacElrevey
• Dan Gilbert
• Anthony Vandenberg
• Joseph Frohock
• Peter Oudheusden
• Galina Stepanchak
• Scott Henderson
• Anthony Pascone

WaterTribe chief Steve Isaac told TownDock.net that he liked Oriental as a location for the race and that he hopes to be back in 2021.

Posted Monday November 2, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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