By Beverley J. Simmons, Worrell 1000 Race Communications Director
It only took 48 hours to get a full field registered for the 50th Anniversary edition of the Worrell 1000 catamaran race next May from South Florida to Virginia Beach, that will include a pair of stops along the Outer Banks.
The legendary race was born on a steamy, Virginia Beach summer night in 1974. Two brothers sat at the bar they owned together – Worrell Brothers Restaurant and Raw Bar, an Atlantic Avenue eatery and discotheque.
Michael and Chris were well into a few beers when the sailing smack-talk began. Both were into skippering Hobie 16’s at the time and its all but certain that between the bragging and the attempts at one-upping – the liquid courage kicked in and Michael bet his brother that he could sail his Hobie all the way from Virginia Beach to Miami. Non-stop.
And if his brother was ballsy enough to come along on his own Hobie, he would beat him there. Was it sibling rivalry? Sheer machismo? Probably a bit of both – but they agreed to the bet.
Thankfully, they did not set out that evening. They didn’t even set out that next day or the day after. It was in October of that year that the two got underway. Only one would make it to Florida – and it wouldn’t be Miami.
Michael made it to Fort Lauderdale – battered, bruised and exhausted with a boat that needed significant repair.
But it was on that day that a spark flared in Michael Worrell. It lit a fire in his gut so fierce, that he worked doggedly on planning over the next two years to make this race an actual regatta.
A long distance race he was certain he could make a legacy out of, known and sought after by sailors the world over. He wasn’t wrong.
The race has run under different names: the Worrell Brothers Coastwise Race from 1976-1978, shortened to Worrell 1000 in 1979, when it was a continuous, 24-hour format on Hobie 16’s.
Some only recall the more current format of racing daily from checkpoint beach-to-checkpoint beach. Some years with an open class of 20-foot and under boats, to the most recent format of F18 only.
Changes some felt weren’t right for the event, but most were just happy to be a part. If they were lucky enough to make the cut and be on the start line.
Regardless, if it weren’t for that fateful bar-bet, The Worrell 1000 Race, known worldwide by sailors and fans alike, would not have come about. So for the 2024 race, we honor “the spark that lit the flame”.
Officially dubbed the 50th anniversary event, registration opened on April 19, and the field of 15 representing five different countries was set in just two days, with four alternates signed up as of this writing.
Team Australia, who are the two-time defending champions, along with multiple teams and individual sailors from the 2022 event are coming back for more, along with some new faces.
And although we have lost both Michael and Chris Worrell to that eternal, never-ending regatta beyond the sea, its certain they would be thrilled to see how much the Worrell 1000 has become loved.
Revered. Infamous. Sought-after. And above all else, alive and well.
Specific details about checkpoints and more on the 50th Anniversary Worrell 1000 will be coming soon. Stay tuned for the latest at www.worrell1000race.com and be sure to like and follow the event on social media.