R2AK: Audacious, skilled, experienced, prepared.

Published on April 6th, 2015

The gauntlet was dropped a year ago when organizers launched the Race to Alaska (R2AK), the first of its kind and North America’s longest human and wind powered race. Any boat without an engine could enter, with the 750 mile course from Port Townsend, WA to Ketchikan, AK littered with squalls, killer whales, and raging tidal currents.

And if they were worried about attracting entrants, $10,000 for the winner was the carrot. Twenty-six teams have taken the bait, proving once again that people in the Pacific Northwest are up for an adventure.

One of the entrants that bit on the carrot big-time is Team Pure and Wild, led by co-captains Joe Bersch and Dalton Bergan, enlisting the design services of Paul Bieker to build a 24-foot Pacific Proa. Paul is a guru in this corner of the country, at one time due to his International 14 designs and more recently as the brains behind the Oracle Team USA foils in the 34th America’s Cup.

Here is the team’s bio on the R2AK website

You might think that we’re going to write about their name, that “Pure and Wild” sounds like a late night 80’s movie about young nuns tempting faith on a spring break romp through Senior Frog’s.

Shame on you, we wouldn’t dare.

These guys aren’t late night camp, they belong in a sports movie that wraps itself around the full girth of the American fable: The hard-scrabble underdog who comes from nowhere to conquer the bigger, stronger, better financed. How do they manage? Raw talent, hard work, sheer grit, and because someone finally gave them a chance.

If the R2AK was a sports movie, Team Pure and Wild would be the villains.

No question. Soviet MIG pilots, Cobra Kai Dojo from Karate Kid, the team that beat the Bad News Bears, that tiger from Siegfried and Roy—these guys are perhaps the most classically trained and professionally credentialed among all who have stepped up to the starting line.

Their resume reads like there was a sale on accomplishments and they brought one of those giant Costco shopping carts and the minivan: I-14 National Champion, 49er National and North American Champion, Foiling Moth North American Champion, Olympic Trials, Olympic Team…it goes on and on. These guys know their way around the buoys, have raced across oceans, and have even raced through a good part of the R2AK racecourse.

Plus, their boat is incredible. Right after they finished reinforcing the shelf to hold all of their trophies, they started building a crazy new innovative boat: a Proa designed by Paul Bieker – you know, like the guy who designed the foils for the last America’s Cup winner. A high tech take on an ancient design, this boat blows the doors off of convention and it doesn’t even tack.

Audacious, skilled, experienced, prepared.

Attention Ralph Macchio types: these guys are about to sweep the leg.

…and they are going raise money for two charities who donate fish to food banks and work for clean water. Nicest. Villains. Ever.

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