Cedar Park native wins Great Texas 300 catamaran race

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Mike Rohrer chose to spend his Father’s Day weekend out on the open seas. 

Rohrer, who has lived in Cedar Park with his wife Laurinda for 25 years, traveled to South Padre Island to begin the 15th running of the Great Texas 300, a five-day, four-stage, 300-mile catamaran boat race from South Padre Island to Galveston.

“One of the things about this race is you find out things you never knew you could do because you don’t have a choice most of the time,” Rohrer said. “It’s a pretty significant sailing feat just to finish a leg. Sometimes the directions of the wind play a factor, but you still have to sail it." 

Rohrer and his crew Chris Holt, of Austin, won the GT300 with a time of 18 hours, 40 minutes and nine seconds, beating the second-place finisher by nearly four hours. Rohrer previously won the race in 2004 and finished second in 2009, when he lost by just 15 seconds. 

The duo won the first leg on Wednesday by more than four hours due to mechanical difficulties by the other four boats in the race. They also finished first in Leg 2, finishing 18 minutes before the second place catamaran.

Friday was the only day they had trouble, finishing 21 minutes behind the Leg 3 winning duo of Lee Wicklund and David Cerdas, and three minutes back of second place. Still, the lead they had built up was enough for them to hold on, thanks to winning Saturday’s Leg 4 by two minutes.

“It was the third fastest time in the years we’ve been recording it,” he said. “I had a four-hour lead after the first day, and as long as I didn’t have some big issue, I was going to win. We just had to make sure we didn’t take any big risks.”

Weather played a factor this year. One boat didn’t even begin the race because of the rough seas, while another had trouble on the first day with a damaged rudder. The boat launched to start the race but was forced to head to the beach where it was repaired with Gorilla Tape before re-entering the competition.

When the winds are less and the sun is shining, many times the race is longer, slower, and much less grueling. But when the winds are howling and waves are big, the race can go quickly but be brutal.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen sometimes,” Rohrer said. “The weather sets the stage. It can be a beautiful sail, or it can be hellacious depending on the weather conditions. There are nerves when you leave. You pretty much know if you go to the beach, you have to help yourself out because it’s going to be hard for somebody to get to you.”

Catamaran racing was most popular in the 1970s and 1980s and was brought to prominence thanks in part to the Worrell 1000, a 1,000-mile race beginning in South Beach, Florida and ending in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Rohrer, the treasurer of the Great Texas Fleet, said the future of the race is still up in the air. With the decrease in numbers, making the race a yearly occurrence might prove difficult as they may shift to holding a GT300 every other year.

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