The Cruising Club of America has awarded its prestigious 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 was 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 1974, he received a B.A. (Honors) in Political Science from Melbourne University and in 1982 an M.B.A. from the University of New South Wales.
In 1993, Whitworth and his partner Hilary Yerbury purchased the sailboat Berrimilla, a Brolga 33 designed by Australian Peter Joubert. Since the purchase, Whitworth has circumnavigated the world twice with 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, Berrimilla returned 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 encounter 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 Aleutians (Alaska) 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.