Mike Worrell, one of catamaran racing’s true icons, died last weekend of pancreatic cancer. Mike was best known for his pioneering Worrell 1000, a two-week adventure race born in the 70s to settle a bet between Mike and his brother on whether you could sail a beach cat from Florida to Virginia in the open ocean. At its height, news and images of the Worrell 1000 reached hundreds of thousands of people, and Mike was proud of his ability as a promoter. "We had Sports Illustrated, we had Outside Magazine – the world couldn’t get enough of this race," he told us just a few months ago when we met to discuss the resurrection of this classic test of man and machine.
Mike’s success was his downfall – he was so passionate in his love for it and the people that did it – some of the best racers on earth and the fathers of catamaran sailing – that he overextended himself, buying boats that never materialized with entry fees that Mike could never pay back for the ambitious 2003 W1000. The ensuing litigation left Mike with a mountain of debt, and a nasty fight with the guy who left with the cash found Mike signing away his right to ever talk about what happened – Mike legally couldn’t tell the truth, and it ate at him every day of his life. With Worrell’s health deteriorating, he made one last bid to run a race, clear his name, and repay all that he owed from almost a decade ago. And he didn’t stop promoting until the end. Here’s the website of the almost-run Worrell 1000 from this year. We’ll have more for you after we speak with Mike’s widow, Mindy, later this week.
Spare a thought for one of the passionate sailors we’ve ever known, and while you’re at it, spare one for legendary Tornado sailor Reg White, the first man to race with a hard wing during his Little America’s Cup days. Reg died last week racing dinghies in his native Brightlingsea, England. There’s a thread here if you’d like to check in and share stories from the good old days.