They call it the Worrell 1,000 and when its over, said founder Mike Worrell, "You never look at a Hobie cat the same way again."

The Worrell is a 1,000-mile ocean sailing race from Fort Lauderdale to Virginia Beach. No big deal, right?

Except when you consider that the only boat permitted, a hobie cat, isn't a very big deal, either.

It's two 16-foot hulls, each half as wide as a canoe, are held together by lightweight frame and propelled by the wind at speeds up to 20 miles per hour.

He who sails a Hobie cat is not above the sea, he's one with it. He sits upon a mat of woven fabric like a trampoline. When the sea swells the boat, they wash through the mat, soaking the helmsman and crew. Worrel racers are wet, start to finish.

Founder Worrell, who at the time was running a bar in Virginia Beach with his brother, dreamed up the race in 1976. Two years earlier, on a dare, he had sailed a Hobie with a friend from Virginia Beach to Lauderdale in the fall.

That first trip was a 20-day disaster. But for some reason, it intriged Worrell. He came up with a plan for a south-to-north race in the spring. It's been going ever since.

Wednesday, 10 Hobie cat crews will push off from Lauderdale for the fifth running of the Worrell 1,000.

The race has grown from its rough beginnings. Worrell found the first south-north race more a test of who could survive without sleep than a test of sailing skill.

He has since devised a three-man-crew scheme, with a ground crew and eight pre-established checkpoints on the beach along the way.

All teams must stop at all checkpoints, and at each one, a third man replaces one of the crew, who gets to sleep in the van as the ground crew drives to the next checkpoint.

Worrell, 37, might have improved the race to his own disadvantage. He apparently can survive without sleep as he showed when he won the first three races.

Last year, he fell to second place, ad this year he's not racing at all.

But others have come along to take his place.

Hobie Alter Jr., son of the Hobie cat designer and national Hobie champion, is entered with one team this year. So is Mick Whitehead, the world Hobie champ, who is flying in for the race from South Africa.

Last year's winner, Ron Anthony, finished the race in 5 days 2 hours 47 minutes. He'll be back for more.

That was a fast race. If this year's follows suit, a crew of weary, bleary and wet ocean racers ought to be arriving at Virginia Beach on June 2 or 3.