Just yesterday, one of the most demanding, unusual, and compelling sailing competitions ever conceived got underway off Miami Beach, FL, marking its 20th annual edition. The Worrell 1000, as many sailors know, is an extreme undertaking that pits two-person teams racing aboard high-tech, 20-foot beach catamarans against the elements along a 1,000-mile course from Florida to Virginia Beach, VA. The racers in this 13-stage event not only have to contend with the wiles of Mother Nature, which can range from frustrating calms to race-ending wave sets spawned by the occasionally savage Atlantic, they also battle gear failure, shipping traffic, shoals, darkness, and wrenching fatigue. It's nothing if not arduous and certainly no other sailing competition demands the same intensity on the part of its practitioners.
It's fair to say that most monohull sailors have long regarded their multihull brethren as a breed apart, but the competitors who enjoy the rigors of the Worrell 1000 make up an even smaller and more separate sect. Several years ago, when race founder and organizer Mike Worrell shifted his promotional efforts into a higher gear, he adopted an appropriately quirky tag line for the race: "Iron sailors, plastic boats." Since then, in interview after interview, he readily describes his event as a cross between the Tour de France and the Volvo Ocean Race. Still, even those broad definitions only hint at what it takes to endure the two-week sprint north through the coastal waters of five US states. Nonetheless, it's evident that the Worrell 1000 demands a special breed of sailor.