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September 28, 2023

3,000 miles, multiple hurricanes: Shipyard Brewing’s namesake boat arrives in Spain for global race

boat with sail on ocean Courtesy / Ronnie Simpson Racing The Open 50 sailboat Shipyard Brewing, called Sparrow at the time, is seen during a qualifying race before heading from Portland to Spain.

After more than 3,000 miles of dodging hurricanes, a racing sailboat named after a Portland brewery has completed its journey from Maine to Spain and is now preparing for a solo, round-the-world race.

Skipper Ronnie Simpson and the sailboat Shipyard Brewing arrived safely in A Coruña, Spain, nearly a month after leaving Portland. The team is now conducting final preparations for the Global Solo Challenge, which starts on Oct. 28.

Shipyard Brewing Co. founder and CEO Fred Forsley and his company signed a sponsorship deal earlier this year with Ronnie Simpson Racing, which is fielding an Open 50-class sloop in the Global Solo Challenge, a single-handed, nonstop race that begins and ends in A Coruña.

The race is considered one of the most difficult challenges in sports.

2 people with boat shaking hands
Fred Forsley, right, CEO of Shipyard Brewing Co., shakes hands last month with Ronnie Simpson on a sponsorship deal for Simpson's around-the-world sailing campaign. Simpson’s Open 50 boat, formerly called Sparrow, was renamed Shipyard Brewing.

“Watching Captain Ronnie and the Shipyard Brewing Open 50 set sail off the Portland Head Light was a moment that will stick with me forever,” said Forsley. “It was cool to watch him and communicate and see his journey unfold.”

Forsley said he plans to visit Simpson for the Oct. 28 start.

Simpson is a combat-wounded and medically retired U.S. Marine and Iraq war veteran who has sailed more than 140,000 miles at sea. He works professionally as a sailor, sailing media professional and charter boat captain. 

He will sail the 50-foot boat on a 26,000-mile course, which he expects to complete in about 130 days. It takes sailors down into the Southern Ocean and around such perilous waters as Cape Horn off the tip of South America

But first, he and crew member Ed McCoy had to get the boat from Maine to Spain. 

Departing Sept. 1, they sailed east prior to calling on Chester, Nova Scotia, to wait out weather from Hurricane Idalia. 

Once it was safe to set sail again, the two sailed through the remnants of the storm before reaching the open Atlantic and pointing their bow for Spain. 

Simpson and his team now have close to five weeks to complete final preparations before Simpson sets sail on the race.

Some minor problems with the boat need to be fixed in Spain, he said. In addition, the boat and sails will be rebranded to reflect the partnership between Shipyard Brewing and Ronnie Simpson Racing. The boat was formerly named Sparrow.

A handful of sailors are already on the course in the pursuit-style race, in which the slowest boats start first and the fastest boats start last. 

“It was a challenging delivery and a very good shakedown for the boat,” said Simpson. “From a weather and navigation standpoint, it was very complex. We learned some things that we feel we can improve with the boat, and so we will take on a few projects while here in Spain, all of which are aimed at improving reliability with the boat.”

Before Simpson set sail for Spain, Maine Yacht Center in Portland conducted an extensive refit and maintenance on the boat.

boat on trailer on land
Courtesy / Ronnie Simpson Racing
The Open 50 sailboat Shipyard Brewing, called Sparrow at the time, goes in the water at Maine Yacht Center for a retrofit earlier this year.

Simpson continued, “We also verified a lot of the work performed on the boat while in Maine, and tidied up a few things along the way.”

Simpson and Shipyard Brewing will be sailing to raise money and awareness for U.S. Patriot Sailing, a nonprofit sailing organization for veterans that is based in Annapolis, Md. Simpson’s boat was launched in 1994 and has completed two solo round-the-world races. It sailed around Cape Horn on three occasions, most recently in 2020. 

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