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Chrys Worboys Spotlight. This is Yorkshire Calling.

“I just love organising”, not a statement all of us could make, but a process and activity in which our protagonist today has made somewhat of a life out of, either in a long career in the commercial side of construction or, with a just as lengthy involvement in motorsport - at both grass roots and international levels.

Chrys Worboys Spotlight. This is Yorkshire Calling.

Chrys Worboys is probably no stranger to many rallyists, and most in historic regularity rallying will certainly have come across him and wife Judith on a HERO-ERA rally at some point, although with their penchant for adorning camouflage at their controls, you may not have seen them until the very last moment! But Chrys was most definitely there, and has been in one form or another for 50 years.

The camouflage is probably a fair metaphor for Chrys’ involvement in motorsport, as a radio controller amongst other things, his participation has been essential for the safe running of events for half a century, but he has never been one to seek the limelight, remaining largely behind the scenes. He was a pioneer in radio communications and safety and recently this was recognised by Motorsport UK as Chrys was presented with a long service award, a deserved moment in the spotlight for someone who’s volunteer activities have stretched to far more than standing in a field with a clock.

Chrys is a Yorkshireman born and bred, having always lived in the Leeds area and for most of that time with Judith, to whom he has been married for very nearly 50 years. Together they have two sons, and five grandchildren and Chrys worked professionally for some of the biggest property firms in the country, a job he performed with distinction, but with all of this somehow still managed to dedicate an enormous amount of time and energy to motorsport, namely rallying.

 Growing up there was always an interest in motor racing, and the young Chrys idolised Jim Clark and Graham Hill, but despite the formers involvement in rallying, he admits that Hill was probably his favourite as “he was a bit more of a character”. His parents were heavily involved in the Scouting movement, and by proxy so was Chrys, and indirectly this would be the vehicle for his future involvement in rallying. “My parents were heavily involved in the Cubs and the Scouts, so you couldn’t escape it, you had to get involved. Later as a Scout leader we used to put on a charity fell run, it was 60 miles and used to take people 24 hours, sometimes 36 hours to complete. I was part of the radio team, with a big responsibility for the runner’s safety. We operated on a frequency that was unique to us, but it just so happened that one day there was some channel interference with another radio safety team who were operating on a stage rally in Yorkshire. There were some cross words between both of us, that’s for sure.”

This though, led to a meeting of minds, and cooperation as Chrys realised that he could offer the skills (and equipment!) of his radio team as a service to other rallies. “It was all charitable as we were a Scout group, but a donation from the clubs to the Scouting cause never went amiss!” He didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the beginning of a 50-year (and still counting) association with rallying.

After the crossed frequencies it wasn’t long before the Scouting was exchanged for rallying and motorsport became the full-time hobby! Being ‘on the tools’ as it were on events, purely scratches the surface of what Chrys would give to the sport and arguably his most important legacy is even more behind the scenes. “In the early days the organisation was chaos, you would have volunteer marshals doing various jobs with various responsibilities, but nothing was standardised across the clubs or the country.” Chris took it upon himself to earn his training qualifications as a radio controller and then began to devise training sessions so that he could share his knowledge with fellow radio operators, thus improving the safety of the event.

Around this time there was also a meeting convened by the RAC to make some sense of the radio marshalling structure across the sport as a whole, and Chrys, amongst five other Regional Radio Coordinators, was called to a meeting at the Royal Automobile Club, and this was the beginning of the standarised structure clubs and events will be familiar with today, although, ever modest, Chrys is keen to impress that it wasn’t just down to him. After the meeting the country was divided up into zones, of which Yorkshire and North Wales were decreed as being under Worboy’s watch!

This was all occurring when, after various incidents, insurance providers were adding increasing stipulations on organisers. It was at a time when Chrys and others could see the various legal implications on the volunteer marshals, if an incident occurred on their watch. “After being cross examined myself, I could see that these people were potentially being put into positions whereby trying to do the right thing, they could become implicated if anything went wrong”, and so Chrys became more and more involved in training, not just the operators in his area, but across the country.

This took the form of yearly training, although it wasn’t mandatory and for those that either didn’t want to or couldn’t make the annual sessions, so Chrys wrote a book. The Radio Marshals Handbook that had its most recent revision in 2021, is still a valuable tool for today's radio operators. Of course, whilst all of this was going on Chrys had a growing family, and was still doing his day job, so how did he fit it all in?

“I had a very understanding wife. When I look back it took such a huge amount of my time, I was also on the Rallies Committee for 16 years and took on Chief Marshalling responsibilities as well as other marshalling commitments. I missed a lot at home though, I think that helped make the decision to retire from work and my motorsport licenses a few years ago, to spend more time with my family and grandchildren.” Chrys also convinced Judith to take early retirement, and now they can both spend more time together and with the family, as well as still being involved with rallying through HERO-ERA.

“I couldn’t give it all up completely, and we’re so fortunate to be involved with HERO, the organisation has really opened our eyes to the wider world, and we’ve travelled to some fabulous places with them.” This includes New Zealand and South America on last year’s Lima to Cape Horn Rally, a privilege that Chrys and Judith don’t take lightly. They have worked hard for it though, with chief marshalling duties for Chrys on many events, (organising all of the marshals for the event), including various LeJogs and a relationship with HERO-ERA that stretches back to 1997 and the John Brown days. “He was a character” is the most that can be drawn from Chrys on that particular personality, but then perhaps that is all that needs saying!

In truth, this article merely scratches the surface of all the things that Chrys has been involved in over the years, in a career that has seen him work at the very highest level with two decades as Radio Controller on the RAC Rally (or Network Q or Wales Rally GB) and it is clear after a couple of hours talking on the phone that his is a legacy that runs deep in the sport – not that he would tell you that himself. For example, we haven’t touched on being Chief Marshal of the Three Castles, or his involvement in his local Trackrod Rally and the Roger Albert Clark, as well as still being an advisor to Motorsport UK - never mind the years that both he and Judith have been involved as a pair.

I wonder how he reflects on everything he has given to the sport in the past half century? “Good value for money” he says, laughing. Behind this quip I sense there is a certain amount of bashfulness at my suggestion of a legacy, but then this, as well as everything he has given, is part of why Chrys is held in such high regard by his peers, and he should be proud of everything he has achieved. The closest Chrys gets to acknowledging this though is to say that his ‘hobby’ has given him immense satisfaction over the decades.

And what of the future, now he’s packed away his transmitter and receiver? “Well, we’re not done yet!” says Chrys, speaking for him and Judith. “We want to carry on being involved as long as possible, we love the HERO-ERA events, everything about them is brilliant from the places we go, to the friendships we have formed with those in the organisation and the competitors. But we also want to spend as much time as we can with our sons and grandchildren.”

The story isn’t finished yet then, and though it already contains so many chapters, it’s fabulous that both Chris and Judith are hungry to add to the pages, and the legacy, for a long time to come, and so say all of us…

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