Hundreds of cats ready to pounce Texel, again
DEN BURG _ The “World’s Biggest Cat Race” returns to the island of Texel in June. Over a period of 35 years, the Round Texel Race has grown into the world’s biggest catamaran event. Annually, it draws 500 or so catamarans to this windswept island of dunes, 7 villages and an uninhabited sand bar.
The event’s origins date back to 1977 when 2 members of a local cat sailing club sailed around Texel. The island _ measuring 20×10 km, and pronounced ‘Tessel” _ is the first of 20 or so sandy islands that lie in a chain off the northern shores of the Netherlands and Germany. They are known for their “invigorating” weather: the kind that turns flags into planks. The 36th Round Texel Race will be held June 15, capping a week of sailing festivities that include the Texel Dutch Open and 2 trips for recreational sailors.
In 1977, Martin van der Wal and Henk Koopman, the Round Texel initiators spent well over 6 hours in a Hobie Cat 16 going around Texel. The first formal race, in 1978, attracted 84 catamarans, of which 68 saw the finish. These days, 500 or so cats show up. The record stands at hours, 7 minutes and 7 seconds.
You think cat racing is for people no older than, say, 24? Meet Dirk Pool, 68. He has not missed one Round Texel race and will compete again this year. He won the race in his class in 1999, and placed 2nd in 2009.