50th anniversary of Worrell bar bet

Published on April 22nd, 2023

It was 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 (yes…DISCO. They were a thing back then…).

Michael and Chris Worrell were well into a few beers when the sailing smack-talk began. Both were into skippering Hobie 16s at the time and I am 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 & 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…..

For those familiar with the story, they remember the early days when the race was run under different names: Worrell Brothers Coastwise Race 1976-1978, shortened to Worrell 1000 in 1979 – when it was a continuous, 24-hour format on Hobie 16s. Some only recall the more current format of racing daily stages from South Florida to Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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. At. All.

For next race in 2024, the theme is to honor the “spark that lit the flame”. Officially dubbed the 50th Anniversary Event, registration opened April 19 was fully subscribed with ahe field of 15 entrants in two days, with an alternate list already underway.

The 15 teams represent five countries, with returning champions Team Australia (winners in 2019 & 2022) along with multiple teams and individual sailors from the 2022 event coming back for more along with some new faces.

While Michael and Chris Worrell have passed on, their vision for the Worrell 1000 has become loved…. Revered. Infamous. Sought-after. And above all else – ALIVE AND WELL.

Details: www.worrell1000race.com

Source: Beverley J Simmons

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