Team Elsie Piddock doubles lead in Race to Alaska

Published on June 10th, 2015

(June 10, 2015; Day 4) – Having exited the Johnstone Strait, Team Elsie Piddock’s F-25c has doubled their lead in the Race to Alaska from Victoria, BC to Ketchikan, AK to now nearly 80 nm over Team Por Favor’s Hobie 33. The lead team of Al Hughes, Graeme Esarey, and Matt Steverson will lose some of that margin in the meanders to reach the final checkpoint in Bella Bella, BC 30 nm ahead, which is about 230 nm from the finish. The field has been reduced to 24 teams after Team Y Triamoto retired with sail damage.

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Stage 2 Report from Race Central:
(June 9, 2015; Day 3) – There are two types of people who follow the R2AK: the forgetful, the humble, and people who can’t count. All of us made predictions. In the months between when we announced the race and the moment that just passed, all of us have declared what the race would be, how it would play out, that the weather would be mild, that it would be about lightly built boats, or a particular strategy, or that Larry Ellison would rear up like a moneyed leviathan and sink the spirit of the race for the rest of us. From the organizers here at R2AK to the people lingering on the toilet just to avoid the criticism of checking the tracker one more time, we were all wrong. At least once, but probably way more than that. Come on, be honest, even you.

Who would have thought that it would blow historically impossible wind velocity and duration? Who would have thought that Olympians and America’s Cup designers and fabricators would be bested by a couple of guys in a couple of kayaks? Who could imagine that a sailboat could sail upwind and up current against one of the most feared passages on the West Coast? That we’d have 10 teams less for the full race with just 4 days on the water, or that the first 30 hours the lead boat could be 24 hours ahead of the follow boats, or that their lead could shrink to 10 hours in the next day? Who would have thought that early this morning a Hobie 33 would be covering tacks on a f-27 up the backeddy to stay out of the foul current? This is the weirdest race we have ever seen.

Tony Robbins-type characters like to offer up that the Chinese character for crisis is a combination of the symbols of danger and opportunity and that this is some sort of truism. While we lack cunning in linguistics to judge the veracity of that interpretation, today’s crises felt more like a combination of the characters “Oh shit” and “Thank god”. The day started early, by 0300 Team SeaWolf had affected a successful abandon ship of of Sand Heads near Steveston on the mainland side of the Strait of Georgia. It sounded awful. Loaded down and in heavy seas resulting from the shoaling up of the entire fetch of the Strait, SeaWolf was in 15′ breaking seas that washed the boat with every wave. Each wave a massive speed bump, it was impossible to get enough speed for the rudder to affect course and they were unable, even in winds that built to 40+ to turn up or down. A lee shore upon them they called the cavalry of the Canadian Coast Guard and did the hardest thing for any captain and crew – the crew of Team SeaWolf abandoned ship. No injuries, but dashed dreams as the boat was recovered the next day by Auxillarists.

With the blood returning to our faces, and SeaWolf family and friends having their weak-knees moment that comes from learning of the crisis at the same moment learning of the resolution, a thrice blown jib on Team Y Triamoto ending their campaign at their hometown of Nanaimo, and a parted Halyard forcing the retreat of Team Golden Oldies (who are at time of posting heading downwind to affect repairs and/or bow out of the contest). There are conspiracy theories that they are up to something different, but only their crew and the Masons know for sure.

In the predictions of the race we were all wrong at least once, and it still looks like it could be anyone’s race for first, wide open for the steak knives and an honest to god challenge just to complete. Think safe thoughts for the racers, the wind continues to howl and fatigue can only be getting worse. Buckle up.


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