A2AK: The battle for steak knives

Published on June 13th, 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. After three guys sailing a F-25c crushed them all, there are still 19 in the field fighting to finish….

(June 13, 2015; Day 7, Stage 2) – On a boat at sea you are completely insignificant. Think of the forces involved. The liquid that makes up over 75% of the earth’s surface and a fair amount of our atmosphere isn’t just an impossibly large thing compared to a boat, but it’s an impossibly large thing that is affected by even impossibly larger forces.

The earth rotates all 5.97 x 10^24 kilograms of its mass through the gravity fields of the moon and sun every day. Beyond the forces of gravity the sun’s daily dose of 383 billion kilowatts of solar radiation heat the earth creating photosynthesis, vitamin D, and pressure differentials that the earth rotates through- all of which kick the atmosphere in the slats in the form of wind. Your boat vs all of this celestial scale energy? Your boat doesn’t stand a chance.

All of the quantum physics (or whatever) involved are too big for our pea brains to comprehend, we’re far more comfortable assigning human emotions to things. When you are in it, and it rages against you day after day, it’s easy to think it’s intentional. The truth is the sea doesn’t throw you gale after never ending gale like a wounded ex throws your clothes onto the lawn. The sea isn’t angry, the sea doesn’t give a damn.

It would be hard for the crew on Team Por Favor not to take it personally. Their Hobie 33 has taken it on the nose since the wind built on the second day. As the sun sets on the first week of the R2AK these guys have been taking body blows from the sea, round after round, and like the champs they are they keep leaning into the punch, staying off the ropes, and hammering on for another round. You’ve seen the pictures (and if not you should check out Nick Reid’s gallery of aerial photographs here: http://r2ak.com/video-photos/).

For nearly all of a week Team Por Favor has been on their ear, lunging into each wave and only once stopping for a breather. Six hours in the corner between rounds in seven days of bare knuckle brawling with the elements, the rest has been hammer down. In weather that sent other teams to seek sensible shelter the Por Favor-ers have survived, endured and kept on trucking, racing the only race that a boat much slower than the fancy trimarans could possibly race if it had any chance of finishing at the front of the pack: outlast. Stay on the water as long as possible, get as many miles as you can, because the three headed dogs are on the scent and will soon be nipping at your heels.

As of 20:00 local time Por Favor is again battering into the gates of Alaska through a 20 knot freight train of wind with no end in sight for the 70 or so miles that remain. Forty miles behind, the fast and experienced Team MOB Mentality (F85SR, a 28′ Farrier “Super Racer”) are making 8 knots to Team Por Favor’s 5.5. If you do the math (really, you should do the math. We’ve been pulling solid C work in this recently), the judges might score the previous rounds to Por Favor, but if this speed disparity remains it looks like Team MOB Mentality could slip ahead in the bell lap and score a final round knockout in the race for the steak knives. Keep your eyes on the tracker, the sea might not care but we clearly do and both of these teams are as competitive as they come.

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Report by Race Central.

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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