The Outer Banks has always been known as a place of consistent winds with regional sounds and estuaries providing a vast palette of protected waters. Yet for some reason, sailing has never been a large part of the Outer Banks experience.
This may be changing thanks in part to SailNC, a local organization that has been promoting the Outer Banks as a sailing destination for the past three years. It all began with our rich history of being home to a skilled boatbuilding workforce. Working with area businesses and sailors, as well as the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, SailNC became a part of the local scene in 2013. What the organization has been able to accomplish in a few years is pretty remarkable; there have already been four regattas held in Outer Banks waters since 2014.
The Weta Nationals was held in September of 2015 at Jon Britt’s Nor’Banks Sailing in Duck, NC. The regattas have featured smaller vessels, 14’ – 18’, and the Weta fits into that range. A trimaran manufactured by a New Zealand company, Weta Marine is a three-hulled sailboat that’s easy to break down and set up, making it very portable.
Although the Weta Regatta was held in Duck, the other regattas took place in the Croatan Sound, between the Virginia Dare Bridge and Old Manns Harbor Bridge. Watching the boats in competition is beautiful, almost mesmerizing. The sails stretch across the horizon with the Virginia Dare Bridge and Manns Harbor as a back drop.
As a race begins, to the unpracticed eye, it’s a confusion of sails which appears to be general melee. To the practiced eye, though, there is strategy and skill and the studying of sails, especially for anyone lucky enough to be on the water. It soon becomes clear that certain boats are racing for the lead, and it’s those with great skill who will be able to maintain it.
Depending on the race, the boats may be setting spinnakers when they hit the downwind leg, which cause sudden and small explosions of color as the sails grab the wind. The boats lean far into the wind, and the crews perch on the far side of their boats, a counterbalance to the forces propelling them through the water.
SailNC is not just a clearing house for competition. What the organization is trying to do is establish the Outer Banks as a place to sail. “The establishment of North Carolina’s coast and sounds as a sailing destination and hub, through the promotion and growth of all aspects of the sailing industry in North Carolina,” their mission statement reads.
Although relatively new, their efforts appear to be bearing fruit. With strong winds and protective sound waters, the Outer Banks is the ideal location for sailing. The genuine surprise is that it’s taken this long for an organization to discover and promote the area. The regattas, which attract international participants, have received good reviews universally, and it seems as though the word is finally getting out!