R2AK: The adventure continues

Published on June 11th, 2015

Fifty-three teams started the Race to Alaska on June 4, all hoping to complete the 750 mile course from Port Townsend, WA to Ketchikan, AK. But attrition is a daily occurrence, and the field is now reduced to 22 teams. Joe Cline, editor of 48° North reports….

(June 11, 2015; Day 5, Stage 2) – The race continues. The fleet dwindles. The inspiring sailors and paddlers of Race to Alaska have been basically getting the bejesus beaten out of them, and yet most continue. Since the last report, several more boats have had to throw in the towel, but not without incredible efforts in the face of some insanely burly conditions. There are still more teams out there racing than those who have withdrawn, and what an adventure they’re all having.

The top story, of course, continues to be Team Elsie Piddock (F-25c) just motoring (ok, obviously not motoring) toward Ketchikan. They made it through the Bella Bella checkpoint last night, and are back out in open water. Looking at their tracker, it’s obvious that they’ve found a welcome westerly breeze and are presently on a near-rhumb-line reach for the $10,000 first place prize money nailed to a tree. Their tracker indicates that they’ve been making around 10 knots in the right direction, and the 120 NM to the finish will go quickly at that pace.

Knowing these three sailors well, I guarantee you they’re calm, cool, collected, and enjoying it. They all sailed Pacific Cup together on Graeme’s Farr 1220, Kotuku, and Al and Matt sailed the delivery home together. Matt told me after that trip that the whole experience was one of the most beautiful experiences of his life – low stress, easy-going, and fun. These conditions are different, but I believe that’s their “brand” of offshore racing.

Team Por Favor (Hobie 33) is still in second, and like Elsie Piddock, their course indicates a different point of sail now that they’re out in the Pacific: sailing what appears to be a long port tack reach, as they now pass Calvert Island to the west. Team MOB Mentality’s F85SR is still a ways behind them, but approaching open water themselves.

It will be interesting to see if the should-be faster multihull might start to reel-in the Hobie 33 in open water reaching conditions. Por Favor has sailed excellently, and stayed underway while many others have stopped, including MOB Mentality.

The steak knives for the runner-up are up for grabs, and the Hobie-sailing Canucks with “Neither Shaken Nor Stirred” on their hull still have the upper hand.

Race detailsTrackerFacebook48° North reports

Report from Race Central:
(June 10, 2015; Day 4, Stage 2) – While the leaders continued to bash forward through harrying conditions, the ongoing onslaught of an angry wind during the last 24 hours had teams finding shelter, resting, repairing, and waiting to fight another day. A few of the teams took time to reach out to Race Central. Here are their unfiltered reports that reveal the kind enthusiasm of people living along the race course and the camaraderie of racers:

Graeme from Elsie Piddock: “Seriously tested in Johnstone Strait and the northern part of the Strait of Georgia. “It was nuking in Johnstone Strait and the Strait of Georgia and we were amazed by the number of boats that were coming out to cheer us on, despite the conditions. A First Nations fellow came out in a rowboat to deliver sockeye salmon (that they are having for dinner) and cans labeled candy (likely the highly prized sweet smoked salmon).” They were visited by a SAR boat, but it only came out to ensure safety and take pictures (Ed – does anyone know anyone at the Chatham station? We’d love to share those with all of you). The conditions were so bad the crew of the Piddock were worried and the boat was built for that. Once they “crossed the line” they threw themselves a halfway party with costumes and candy. Dry suits off for the first time right now.” (1700ish PST)

Report from Nels on Broderna: “All is well, were demasted and drifting in Johnstone Straight in the middle of the night, really. Nobody hurt and we have a tow in route… More to come later… But we can not continue with 2 short masts. I’ll try to call you later tomorrow. Tough weather out here tried. Waiting for a window… we need a stronger boat.” He’d be a good test pilot… for things made out of other really strong things. RCMP arrived to give them a tow at 0100 this morning and they have officially bowed out of the race.”

A text from Team Coastal Express: “Well a wet and bumpy ride across on reefed jib alone this AM but the wind is a bit less on this side. Too bumpy for us to beat up the coast in comfort. We are wimps. Be safe and visit Gibsons is what we are doing. Oh and it appears from the appearance from the SARS boat as we pulled into Gibsons that we were MIA. SPOT was blinking but it appears it never came out of sleep mode this AM when we left. Lesson learned. Turn it off and on every day. Oh, please can you clarify when chase boat will chase us all down? Given this sunny weather we are afraid we will get caught ASAP. Thanks so much. Stopped in pub to watch the Chicago Tampa game – the rats ashore made us.” Sounds like they are making friends in Gibsons!”

Superfriends have hauled out in Parksville because they are taking on water with the bow delaminated on their San Juan 21. They have assessed that the prudent path is to exit the race.

Puffin was waiting for weather and doing repairs on failed tabernacle that threatened a dismasting – “Typical day at the dock with Sea Runner, visited by Y Triamoto crew” (who exited the race previously).

Sea Runner: After a timed surf landing to ride a wave over a reef and to the safety of a beach, Team Sea Runner climbed the mast of Team Puffin to fish down a halyard that had escaped, and later jumped in the water and pulled their boat through False Narrows (alongside Team Puffin, doing the same) against a foul current when no other method would work. Hard work, cold work, but they did it. After a brief nose poke into deteriorating conditions they spent the night in Nanaimo and have acquired new pedals for their auxiliary power and are looking for new yards. They are down but not out, working on repairs to their boat and spirit, and would like a tow from whatever helicopter seems to be towing Team Elsie Piddock. (Don’t start rumors – that was a joke from a tired Sea Runner amazed like the rest of us at how fast Team Elsie Piddock is going).

While the feats of the boats at the front of the race are impressive, and their motivations clear, the seamanship and tenacity of the teams on smaller vessels are no less monumental. More affected by seas, sleeping wet, eating cold, nowhere near an opportunity of more classic recognition – the first four have been hard fought days and the sheer will to continue despite all of the discomfort and disappointment is heroic beyond measure. Our hats are off to all of you. Your spirit is what this race is all about.

Background: The inaugural Race to Alaska is a unique, non-motorized, 750-mile marathon geared toward long distance rowers, paddlers and sailors. The two stage race began in Port Townsend, Washington on June 4 and finished at Victoria, BC (40 miles), with this first stage used as a qualifier to continue. If approved, competitors started the second stage Victoria, BC to Ketchikan, AK (710 miles) on June 6. The first person or team to finish wins $10,000. Second place will be awarded a set of steak knives.

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