Harken Derm

Not Your Typical Brand of Whiskey

Published on March 6th, 2017

The inside passage to Alaska has been paddled by native canoes since time immemorial, sailing craft for centuries, and after someone found gold in the Klondike the route was jammed with steamboats full of prospectors elbowing each other out of the way for the promise of fortune.

It’s in the spirit of tradition, exploration, and the lawless self-reliance of the gold rush that Race to Alaska was born. R2AK is the first of its kind and North America’s longest human and wind powered race, and currently the largest cash prize for a race of its kind.

There is no good reason for this race to be approaching its third edition in 2017. Clearly there is still some grit left in this over-evolved world. Or ignorance is at an all-time high. You pick.

The R2AK is like the Iditarod, on a boat, with a chance of drowning, being run down by a freighter, or eaten by a grizzly bear. There are squalls, killer whales, tidal currents that run upwards of 20 miles an hour, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

R2AK is based on the hardest kind of simplicity. It’s you, a boat, a starting gun. $10,000 if you finish first, a set of steak knives if you’re second. Cathartic elation if you can simply complete the course. R2AK is a self-supported race with no supply drops and no safety net. Any boat without an engine can enter.

Last year 44 teams were accepted and 26 finished. Three guys on a M32 catamaran won in 3 days, 20 hours, 13 minutes. Randy Miller, Ian Andrewes and Colin Dunphy are some kind of crazy.

A new feature is added this year. Not that the event needed it. More like putting gasoline on the fire. Beyond the established famous prizes, the welcome committee will greet each team at the dock and offer to buy their boat for $10,000. But only one boat. You don’t have to be first, you just have to be the first to say yes.

The race has two stages:

Stage 1: The Proving Ground – June 8
Port Townsend to Victoria BC (40 miles): R2AK starts with an initial race across open water, two sets of shipping lanes, and an international border. The first stage is designed as a qualifier for the full race and as a stand-alone 40 mile sprint for people who just want to put their toe in.

If you want to be a part of R2AK but don’t have the time or inclination for the full race- join for a full day of all out racing across some of the biggest water in the course. Racers continuing on will clear Canadian customs in Victoria.

Stage one winners get to bask in the glory for a full day and a half.

Stage 2: To the Bitter End – June 11
Victoria, BC to Ketchikan, AK (710 miles): Racers start in Victoria and continue until they reach Ketchikan, accept their mortality and quit, or lag too far behind and are tapped out by the sweep boat. Other than two waypoints along the way, Seymour Narrows and Bella Bella, there is no official course. To quote the bard, You can go your own way.

If this sounds like your brand of whiskey, R2AK is the race for you.

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