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Resurgence of the Worrell 1000, SailGP foils on San Francisco Bay

by David Schmidt 7 May 08:00 PDT May 7, 2019

If you've read this newsletter for a while, you'll know that Sail-World and its North American editor have a massive soft spot for sailboat races that involve a significant adventurous component. This, of course, is self-defined: for some sailors, a trip into the danger zone could involve sailing out of sight of land; for others, it could be crossing the Gulf Stream or rounding Cape Horn on an "Ultime" trimaran. But for others, the adventure game involves full-commitment sailing aboard small, engine-less sailboats.

In recent years, the Race to Alaska (R2AK; June 3, 2019) has dominated a lot of this limelight in North America, but yesterday marked the resurgence of the Worrell 1000 Reunion Race. This high-octane event, which is open to Nacra 20 and Formula 18 catamarans, will take the brave-souled fleet some 1,000 miles from Hollywood, Florida, to Virginia Beach, Virginia.

While there are planned nightly stops, this does nothing to dilute the challenge of sailing high-performance catamarans over some 1,000 miles of Atlantic brine.

Some backstory: The Worrell 1000 began in the early 1970s as a bet between the brothers Chris and Michael Worrell about the feasibility of sailing a Hobie catamaran from Virginia Beach to Florida. While Michael Worrell and his crewmate Steve McGarrett didn't collect on their wager, they did negotiate two hurricanes and multiple repair jobs in October of 1974, en route to reaching Fort Lauderdale after twenty days of sailing.

In 1976, Michael Worrell created the "Worrell Bros. Coastwise Race," which unfurled in May of that year as a four-way contest. Rules were loose: racers were supposed to make landfall each night and call the race organizers and advise them of their progress once per 24 hours (remember: no cell phones). Otherwise, they were more or less free to sail as they liked.

Michael Worrell and his crewmate Guerry Beatson were the only team to finish that year, and, in 1979, Michael's interests turned elsewhere and Chris took over the helm, truncating the race's moniker to the Worrell 1000 and opening up the vessel eligibility to cats 20 feet by 8 feet. By 1987, the beam box measurement was dropped.

The race experienced its first big hiatus from 1990 to 1996, when it returned as a production-cat race. In 2002, Brian Lambert and Jamie Livingston established the current course record of 71 hours, 32 minutes and 55 seconds in a race that was to be the Worrell 1000's last running...until yesterday, when three boats set off from Hollywood, Florida, with dreams of reinvigorating East Coast sailing with a big hit of adventurism.

This year's Worrell 1000 Reunion Race will feature just three teams, but it's important to remember that great things can come from humble (re)starts.

Sail-World loudly applauds the brave efforts of the three teams that are competing in this year's Worrell 1000 Reunion Race, and we highly encourage other race organizers to look at the massive following generated by events such as the R2AK and the Worrell 1000 as possible solutions for helping to attract more adventure-minded people to the sport that we all love.

Moreover, we highly encourage sailors to check out these events and to consider trying something a bit less varnished and with a few more lingering question marks.

And for the hard-core adventurous, it occurs to Sail-World's North American editorial staff (that would be me) that a truly motivated team could theoretically speaking finish the Worrell 1000 in time to participate in the full-course R2AK. (To anyone who just started hearing the siren's song of an irresistible challenge, please consider the gauntlet thrown down.)

Finally, this weekend also marked an exciting adventure of a different sort when SailGP hit the waters of San Francisco Bay for a high-speed, full-foiling weekend of fleet and match racing. Racing played out over Saturday and Sunday, with Nathan Outteridge's Japan SailGP Team dominating on Day 1, followed by a juggernaut performance on Sunday by Tom Slingsby's Australia SailGP team.

After five fleet races and a single match race (between Australia and Japan), Australia SailGP team topped the San Francisco leaderboard, followed by Japan SailGP Team, and Great Britain SailGP Team.

And while Rome Kirby's United States SailGP Team didn't make it onto the podium, the team saw a huge, confidence-inspiring surge forward from their performance at the SailGP Sydney event in February to take fourth place.

The next SailGP event is slated to take place on the waters off of New York City from June 21-22. Sail-World extends a big congrats to the Australia SailGP team for cinching up a great victory, and we also lift our glasses to a fine job by Mr Kirby and his American-flagged crew.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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