Island Free Press: Worrell 1000 catamarn race will return for 2021

2019’s Worrell 1000 racers launch from ORV Ramp 49 in Frisco after an overnight stop. [courtesy Island Free Press]

“They said it couldn’t happen. They said that the Worrell would never again be the revered event it once was. So, the Organizing Authority, made up of former Worrell competitors, race officials, and a few fans, started planning its comeback for 2019. And even as the start date loomed and the naysayers speculated that it wouldn’t be run with just three boats registered – it HAPPENED. And what a hell of a time it was!”

So begins a recent press release announcing the return of the Worrell 1000 race for 2021, which is still on track per a recent update from organizers, despite any new challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a 17-year hiatus, which finally ended in 2019, one of the most iconic and dangerous sailboat races in the world is now headed towards the Outer Banks once again, with the 2021 competition already promising to be bigger and better than ever.

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.

That initial beer-fueled conversation turned into action, and two years later in 1976, the inaugural Worrell Brothers Coastwise Race was launched with a total of four teams.

Growing in popularity, the race quickly became a fixture on the sailing scene in the 26 years that followed, and it became world-renowned among sailors with an inherently adventurous inclination.

Prior to 2019, the last time that 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. Unfortunately, after the 2002 run, the race was quietly canceled in 2003, and more or less disappeared from modern memory in the decades that followed.

Worrell 1000 racers in 2019. [Don Bowers photo]

But the Worrell 1000 reappeared with gusto in May of 2019, to the delight of global sailing fans, as well as local Hatteras Island spectators who flocked to the Frisco beach when the competing teams made a quick and overnight stop along their 1,000-mile journey. Now, visitors will have another opportunity to catch the show, with the return of the infamous race already slated for 2021.

The rules of the race are deceivingly simple.

From southern Florida, competitors head north up the coastline, stopping at 13 checkpoint stops along the way, before finishing at the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

The race plays out in multiple stages, (from checkpoint to checkpoint), and the team with the shortest overall combined time wins.

Worrell 1000 racers rounding Cape Point in 2019. [Don Bowers]

Hatteras Island is at the last leg of the journey, and in 2019, three competing teams rolled onto the beach close to ORV Ramp 49 in Frisco before they launched the following day, making a treacherous run north around Cape Point, and through the Diamond Shoals.

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.

But following years of a quiet hiatus, the Worrell 1000’s arrival on Hatteras Island was an event that stirred memories for folks who remember the race’s heyday, and which offered new opportunities for curious spectators to see – first-hand – what makes the barely-offshore waters of the islands so dangerous.

Though there is no race planned for 2020, plans are already moving forward to return this spectacle to Hatteras Island in 2021.

2019’s event had a total of three teams, but 2021’s race has already reached the entry cap of 15 teams total, with 6 alternate teams on standby, and nations around the globe participating in the multi-day race up the Eastern Seaboard.

Per an update from race organizers, four teams from the United States have already signed up for the 2021 event. There are also three teams from Australia on the list, as well as teams from The Netherlands, South Africa, Germany, and France who will be participating in the upcoming 2021 competition.

Worrell 1000 racers pass Cape Point. [Don Bowers]

The event will be once again be run on boats in the Formula 18 class, launching from and finishing on select beaches from Hollywood, F.L. to Virginia Beach, V.A. The race remains a 1,000-mile competition of offshore sailing for the most daring and capable sailors, and there will again be overnight stops at 13 different locations up the coast, which will include Hatteras Island.

“Checkpoint and logistical planning are well underway and the response from hosts, well-wishers and public officials has been enthusiastic and heartwarming,” stated an update from race organizers. “Our coverage of the 2019 event had worldwide reach with our social media pages exploding with followers, tuning in to watch the starts via our daily live feeds. We’re excited to expand the coverage on the beach, on the water and to bring the sailors’ stories to you in a way that feels personal.”

For more information on the Worrell 1000 Reunion Race, and to keep up with the action in the months leading up to the 2021 event, visit

This story originally appeared on Read More local stories here.