The three teams competing in the famed Worrell 1000 catamaran sailboat race successfully landed in Frisco on Thursday afternoon, arriving at ORV Ramp 49 after a roughly 75-mile trek that began Thursday morning in Atlantic Beach, N.C.
The race will heat up again on Friday morning, and the public is welcome to head to the Frisco beach near ORV Ramp 49 to cheer on the sailors as they tackle one of the most difficult parts of the route – navigating around Cape Point – while getting closer and closer to the home stretch.
The famed race that entails a dangerous and challenging 1,000-mile route from Florida to Virginia Beach is back after a 17-year hiatus, and the competing teams have just two more days remaining before they reach 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 colleagues, and the topic turned to the improbability of sailing a catamaran vessel up the East Coast. Two years later the inaugural Worrell Brothers Coastwise Race was launched in 1976 with four teams, and the race became a fixture on the sailing scene in the decades that followed.
Hatteras Island is the second-to-last stop in the race, which officially began in Hollywood, Florida on Sunday, May 5, and which has steadily been making its way up the coast over the past week and a half.
Now officially called the Worrell 1000 Reunion Race, 2019’s three competing teams – Team Australia, Team Cat in the Hat, and team TCDYC or “Team Texas” – are already making waves and generating plenty of attention at every stop for their daring desire to give the unpredictable 1,000-mile trek a shot.
The multiple-day race effectively plays out in 12 stages, from checkpoint to checkpoint, and the team with the shortest overall combined time for each leg of the route wins.
On Thursday, the three teams landed on the Frisco beach within a fairly competitive timeframe. Team Australia landed first, despite navigating for roughly 61 miles out of the 75-mile stretch without a starboard rudder, which broke off earlier in the day. Teams Cat in the Hat and TCDYC soon followed, finishing within three minutes of each other.
Despite the long journey and the visible indications of the race’s challenging premise – which included bandaged-covered hands and red, slightly sunburned faces – all of the sailors were in joyful moods when they arrived on the Frisco shoreline, and they even paused to chat with spectators who watched the vessels successfully land on Hatteras Island.
There was also a palatable air of excitement among the group, as Friday’s leg includes one of the most difficult aspects of the entire 1,000-mile course – meandering around Cape Point, and through the Diamond Shoals.
Rod Waterhouse of Team Australia is the lone veteran of the historic race, having first tackled the Worrell 1000 in 1991, and the seasoned competitor is familiar with the challenge that lies ahead.
“Cape Hatteras is the part that everyone looks forward to,” he said. “I have been around [the Point] in wild weather before, and know how challenging it can be during years when there are storms, or winds, or [other factors.] The weather is looking favorable tomorrow, though, so that’s great news.”
Indeed, the consistent 10-20 mph southwesterly winds made the journey to Frisco relatively easy, (comparatively speaking), and the good weather conditions are forecast to continue into Friday as well.
“Today we had a really good breeze coming from the right direction, so there were not a lot of issues to deal with,” said Beverley J. Simmons, Communications Director for the Worrell 1000 Reunion Race.
But despite the great weather, tomorrow’s venture around Cape Point is obviously not without risk.
“Diamond Shoals and Cape Point are part of the Graveyard of the Atlantic – there are more boats underneath you than you can see on the water at any time,” said Race Committee PRO John Williams. “It’s the one navigation hazard for the day, as well as for the entire event. For the full two weeks, that’s what everyone has been thinking about.”
But the competitors themselves are clearly unafraid, and are even excited about the challenge ahead. Race newcomer Christian Vuerings of Team TCDYC was all smiles when it came to the Cape Point obstacle on the horizon. “They say the first race is just about making it to the end, and the second race is about [trying] to win,” he said. “This has just been the best time of my life, and I’m excited to make it to the end.”
Though their time on Hatteras Island is brief, the competitors will get a slight respite before the difficult Friday ahead, thanks to Cape Hatteras Motel owners Janet Morrow and Dave Dawson who are excited to host the roughly 30-member team. Originally contacted by Worrell Race organizers In July of 2018, the pair have been excited to welcome these especially unique visitors to Hatteras Island.
“It’s been incredibly exciting,” said Janet Morrow Dawson. “We’ve been following every leg since they started in Florida, and being able to put faces with names and to watch the boats come into Frisco was incredible. It was a treat to welcome them on a beautiful Hatteras Island day, and we worked hard to make them feel very welcome.”
The Dawsons are taking the teams and Worrell representatives out to a well-earned dinner at Pangea’s Tavern in Avon on Thursday evening. The group also includes a special guest who is also joining the last leg of the race – Mindy Worrell, the widow of the race’s founder, Mike Worrell, who passed away on June 5, 2010.
“It’s been an honor to talk to her, and to host the entire group,” said Janet Morrow Dawson. “There’s a lot of history and knowledge there, and it’s wonderful to have people from as far away as Australia come to our island.”
“I’ve been walking around with a smile on my face all day. For all of us on Hatteras Island, this is really great publicity, and an opportunity to ‘show off’ our [home.]”
HOW TO CATCH THE WORRELL 1000 REUNION RACE
The Worrell 1000 will launch from ORV Ramp 49 in Frisco at around 9:55 a.m. on Friday, May 17.
Parking is available via a small parking lot right before the ramp entrance, and a Cape Hatteras National Seashore ORV permit is required to drive on the beach to the launch site.
Beachgoers in Buxton north of Cape Point will also likely catch a view of the competitors as they cruise by, as the vessels will need to stay close to shore to avoid the Diamond Shoals.
The next stop for the competitors is Kill Devil Hills, where the Worrell 1000 representatives will also participate in a beach clean-up. The Island Free Press will continue to post updates on the Worrell 1000 competitors as they continue towards their final Virginia Beach destination.