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August 30, 2023

With backing and boat name from Shipyard Brewing, a sailor sets out on global race

2 people shake hands on dock with boat Courtesy / Shipyard Brewing Co. Fred Forsley, right, CEO of Shipyard Brewing Co., shakes hands with Ronnie Simpson on a sponsorshp deal for Simpson's around-the-world sailing campaign. Simpson’s Open 50 boat, Sparrow, will be renamed Shipyard Brewing. 

A sponsorship from Shipyard Brewing Co. in Portland is helping an Iraq War veteran set sail, alone, on a yacht race that will circle the world.

Founder and CEO Fred Forsley and his company have signed the sponsorship deal with Ronnie Simpson Racing, which is fielding an entry in the Global Solo Challenge, a single-handed, nonstop race that begins and ends in A Coruña, Spain, this autumn. Terms were not disclosed.

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

Ronnie Simpson, a retired Marine who was wounded in combat, will sail a 50-foot sloop and expects to take about 130 days to complete the 26,000-mile course. It takes sailors down into the Southern Ocean and around such perilous waters as Cape Horn off the tip of South America.

Simpson sailed into Portland at the end of June after completing a mandatory 2,000-mile solo qualification voyage. Since then, Maine Yacht Center has been has conducting an extensive refit and maintenance before he sails over to the starting line in Spain.

The work has included new anti-fouling paint on the bottom of the boat, new grey vinyl wrap on the hull, new standing rigging on the mast and a complete overhaul of the batteries and charging system.

“We only had two months, maximum, that we could spend in Maine and we got as much done as we could while we were here and could benefit from the great resources at Maine Yacht Center,” Simpson said in a news release. “To connect with a title sponsor while in Maine is incredible, and I’m both happy and grateful that I have the opportunity to represent a great Portland, Maine, brand in a round-the-world sailing race.”

The boat was formerly named Sparrow, but will be rebranded as Shipyard Brewing while in Spain, before the start of the race. Simpson plans to depart soon, making the trip with longtime friend and crewmate Ed McCoy.

Simpson said, “Fred Forsley and Shipyard Brewing share our dreams and our vision in utilizing this boat, this campaign and this race as a viable marketing tool that can not only promote a great Portland-based brand but also help get myself and Shipyard Brewing (formerly Sparrow) to the starting line, and more importantly, the finish line.”

aerial of boat with sails
Courtesy / Ronnie Simpson Racing
The Open 50 was in Portland for two months for a refit, before heading to Spain for its start time in the Global Solo Challenge sailing race.

The Global Solo Challenge is a pursuit-style race that allows many different types of boats to compete. The slowest and therefore first boat began on Aug. 26, while each subsequent start will bring bigger and faster boats. Simpson and Shipyard Brewing will begin their race around the world on Oct. 28 in the company of eight other boats. 

“A solo round the world sailing race is such a huge challenge and just the right type of adventure we cherish at Shipyard,” said Forsley. “While Shipyard was born in Maine we feel we are now traveling the world as a global brand.”

While racing, Simpson will be representing the Hawaii Yacht Club, the Annapolis Yacht Club and the Cruising Club of America. He will also be raising money and awareness for U.S. Patriot Sailing, a sailing nonprofit for veterans out of Annapolis, Md.

“I was touched by Ronnie’s story and his experience of being wounded as a marine in Iraq, and coming back to find peace and healing through sailing while working with U.S. Patriot Sailing.” Forsley said. “Our family ran the Gray Manor Boarding Home for Veterans in Gray, Maine. We helped vets returning from World War II and always believed that giving people a purpose was so important to healing and rehabilitation.”

Simpson has logged more than 140,000 miles at sea. He works professionally as a sailor, sailing media professional and charter boat captain. The boat he's racing, an Open 50 design, was launched in 1994 and competed in two previous solo around-the-world races.

Shipyard Brewing Co. is a family-owned independent craft brewing company in Portland that was also founded in 1994. Its original brewery was located in Kennebunk, on a site where some of Maine’s early tall ships were built and set sail across the globe.

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