The origins of Worrell 1000 can be traced to a bet in a bar at the Worrell Bros., a Virginia Beach resort restaurant. The bet was between the owners of the bar, brothers Michael and Chris Worrell. The bet was that it was impossible to sail a sixteen-foot catamaran from Virginia Beach to Florida. On October 1, 1974, Michael Worrell and his crew Steve McGarrett left the Virginia Beach oceanfront with hopes of reaching Florida in one piece. Although they did not win the bet they still sailed through two hurricanes and had to make multiple boat repairs. After twenty days, they had to stop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida due to their catamaran being in poor condition.
Later, Worrell thought of turning the 954-mile journey into a regular regatta. The inaugural race, called "Worrell Bros. Coastwise Race", took place in May 1976. Four teams participated in the race. For that first race, limited to 16-foot hobie cats, there were very few rules. The participants could sail day and night, but they were supposed to come ashore and phone the restaurant once every 24 hours. The course was flipped with the start in Fort Lauderdale and the finish in Virginia Beach, to take advantage of the prevailing winds. The only team to finish the first race was that of Worrell and crew Guerry Beatson.
In 1979, Michael Worrell sold his half of Worrell Bros. to his brother Chris, who shortened the name of the race to Worrell 1000. In 1985, the rules were changed to allow any boat within 20-foot length, 8-foot beam, instead of just hobie cats. In 1987, the rules were changed to allow unrestricted beam. There was no race from 1990-1996, but it returned in 1997 as a production class event. Since 2000, the Inter 20 catamaran manufactured by Performance Catamarans of Santa Ana, California is the only boat allowed. Recent Regattas have been canceled to sponsors not covering their financial commitments, however, each year the race is planned.
|1976||Hobie 16||4||Michael Worrell & Guerry Beatson.|
|1985||20 foot rule||Randy Smyth||first year 20' x 8.5' boats|
|1987||rule updated to permit unlimited beam (Winners - Roy Seaman/Jack Etheridge)|
|1988||updated 20 foot rule||(Winners - Rick Bliss/Stephan Najmy) Last leg cancelled, only Bliss/Tartagliano completed race to Va Beach. Only three boats arrived intact at Hatteras (Bliss/Tartagliano, Onsgard/Casto, Seaman/Miller). Controversial end to first (non-Worrell promoted) prize money awarded race to non-finisher (Australia).|
|1989||Randy Smyth||2nd - Australia; 3rd - Team Russia; 4th Loctite (Onsgard/Casto) 5th - Tartagliano/Najmy Only 5 finishers.|
|1997||Randy Smyth||"production class event"|
|1998||Randy Smyth||Course record set: 75:17|
|1999||15||Blockade Runner (Randy Smyth / Matt Struble)|
|2000||23||Blockade Runner (Randy Smyth / Matt Struble)||only 15 of 23 teams completed race|
|2001||Nacra Inter 20||29||Alexander's On The Bay (Brian Lambert / Jamie Livingston)||first one design race since Hobie 16 era|
|2002||Nacra Inter 20||25||Alexander's On The Bay (Brian Lambert / Jamie Livingston)||Course record set: 71:32:55|
|2003||Bimare F18HT||Cancelled||attempt to create $1 million prize|
According to the website, Michael Worrell died on June 5, 2010.
Fees and prizes
The grand total for the prizes rewarded is US$1,000,000. The prize for first place is $400,000 second place $200,000 and third place $100,000. To cover the prizes the entry fee was raised by 8,000 dollars to 20,000 dollars in 2003. The entry fee covers the boat with sails, hotel accommodation along with safety gear.
Team Spit Fire, one of the competitors in the 2001 race, offered some words of advice and things they learned during the race:
- Stay inshore. If it means jib reaching instead of flying the chute, stay in. If it means throwing 120 or 150 tacks in a leg, stay in. And if it looks really good offshore, stay in.
- Get two complete sets of graphics for the sail. If you lose a main, the sponsors will be much happier if their names show up on the new one.
- Take two vehicles. We had a 1981 Chevrolet 21' rv; it was adequate, but not that nimble. We had to unhook the spare boat every night to run errands or just to park at the hotels.
- Never tank, no matter how far back you feel. Three days from the finish, we were 12th, but less than 15 minutes separated us from the next two boats. One of them broke a rudder casting at Hatteras and carried it the rest of the way to Kill Devil Hills, giving up just over an hour, and while the other stayed ahead, Kirk Newkirk of Key Sailing withdrew from a top-10 place in the race because he was unwilling to face the prospect of another 16- to 18-hour light wind leg. The rest of the fleet held positions, and we had our top-10 finish.
- If something feels wrong to the sailors, it probably is.On measurement back in Houston, it was found that the bows were 4" closer together than the sterns. This damage to the main beam from Jensen explained the rudder toe problems.
- Raise more money.
- "About the Worrell 1000 Race". Worrell 1000. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- Michael Worrell. "The Race Director Looks Back". Worrell 1000. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- "Worrell 1000 cancelled for 2003". TheBeachcats.com. 2003-03-29. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
- "Cat Sailor: Hall of Fame". Catsailor.com. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
- Twain Braden (May 2003). "1,000 miles on a cat pays $1 million". Ocean Navigator. Archived from the original on 2007-04-16. Retrieved 2007-05-11.