After a 17-year hiatus, one of the most iconic and dangerous sailboat races in the world is back in the spotlight, and is headed towards Hatteras Island.
The Worrell 1000 Reunion Race launched from Hollywood Beach, Florida, on Sunday morning, marking the start of an approximately 1,000 mile catamaran sailboat race up the coastline to the Virginia Beach finish line.
The Worrell Race technically began in 1974 when the race’s namesake, Michael Worrell, was having a conversation and a few beers with sailing buddies, and the topic turned to the improbability of sailing a catamaran vessel up the East Coast.
Two years later in 1976, the inaugural Worrell Brothers Coastwise Race was launched with four teams, and the race became a fixture on the sailing scene in the 26 years that followed.
The last time the Worrell Race was held was in 2002, when it featured roughly 25 teams, and was covered in-depth in the May 27, 2002 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. But the race was quietly canceled in 2003, and more or less disappeared from the sailing scene. Michael Worrell – who both invented the race and who won the inaugural 1976 competition – passed away on June 5, 2010, but the event remained a legendary memory for participants and spectators alike for decades.
This continual and rejuvenated interest in the race brought it back to life for 2019, which is a full 17 years since the last successful Worrell Race was run.
Now officially called the “Worrell 1000 Reunion Race,” this year’s offshore and long distance beach catamaran sailboat race features three teams – Team Australia, Team Cat in the Hat, and TCDYC – who are already generating plenty of attention for their daring desire to give the challenging 1,000-mile trek a shot.
The rules of the race are deceivingly simple. From southern Florida, competitors head north up the coastline, stopping at 11 checkpoint stops along the way, and finishing at the Virginia Beach oceanfront. The race plays out in 12 stages, from checkpoint to checkpoint, and the team with the shortest overall combined time wins.
Considering that the concept entails 1,000 miles of offshore catamaran travel up the East Coast, it should come as no surprise that there have been multiple accidents and issues throughout the Worrell Race’s existence.
2019’s edition is shaping up to be no exception.
One of the three teams in this year’s Worrell Race, TCDYC from Texas, already ran into issues during the first leg of the race, after capsizing in a thunderstorm.
Per a press release, they were able to right the boat, and although tracking was temporarily disabled, they were also able to eventually make contact with the ground crew. All onboard the vessel were fine, despite the fact that the mast and hulls were full of seawater, and when they finally came to shore just before the sun went down for the day, Team Australia, Team Cat in the Hat, spectators, and race officials all helped to bring their boat ashore.
But an obstacle like capsizing on the first leg apparently didn’t hinder Team TCDYC, as Christian Vuerings, crew to Skipper Chris Green, was reportedly all smiles, hugging and high-fiving everyone on the beach, and saying “It was awesome!”
The first leg obviously had its difficulties, and the three teams aren’t out of hot water just yet, with many more miles to go.
The Cape Hatteras stretch is one of the more notorious legs of the race, (as noted by the 2002 Sports Illustrated article), but on May 16 and May 17, the brave sailors are heading our way.
After departing Atlantic Beach, N.C., on May 16, the competing teams will finish the day at ORV Ramp 49 in Frisco before spending the night at the Cape Hatteras Motel in Buxton.
On May 17, they will return to ORV Ramp 49 to launch for the second to last leg of the race, which will propel them to Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
In the past, local island spectators would line the Buxton and Frisco beaches to watch as the catamarans set sail on the Hatteras Island leg of their journey, and 2019 should be no exception. The public is welcome to come out on the afternoon of May 16 or the morning of May 17 at 9:55 a.m. to cheer on the brave competitors, as they take on the difficult task of navigating through the aptly named Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Real-time tracking is available so virtual spectators can follow the teams’ cruise up the coast, and can be found online at https://worrell1000race.com/race-tracking/.
After their Hatteras Island and Kill Devil Hills stop, the Worrell Race will finish in Virginia Beach on May 18.
Following years of a quiet hiatus, the Worrell 1000’s arrival on Hatteras Island is an event which stirs memories for folks who remember the race’s heyday, and which offers new opportunities for curious spectators to see – first-hand – what makes the barely-offshore waters of the islands so treacherous.
For more information on the Worrell 1000 Reunion Race, and to follow the brave teams as they make their way to our local waters, visit https://worrell1000race.com/.