Race to Alaska: The saga continues

Published on June 12th, 2018

Race to Alaska, now in its 4th year, will have 47 teams on the start line. No motor, no support, through wild frontier. Entrants will soon learn if they have the physical endurance, saltwater know-how, and bulldog tenacity to navigate the 750 cold water miles from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska.

Divided into two stages, the first 40 mile leg on June 14 from Port Townsend to Victoria (BC) is designed as a qualifier for the full race and as a stand-alone sprint for people who just want to put their toe in. To go the full monty, the second stage on June 17 extends the remaining 710 miles to Ketchikan.

Racers either reach Ketchikan—or are tapped out by the sweep boat. Other than two waypoints along the way, Seymour Narrows and Bella Bella, there is no official course. Last year 41 teams were accepted and 27 finished.

As has been a staple since the first edition, there’s $10,000 for the winner and a set of steak knives for the bridesmaid. The 2017 winning team was Tripp Burd, Chris Burd, and Trevor Burd on Mama Tried, an 8.5m Pete Melvin designed trimaran, finishing in 04:03:05. The last place team in a rowing scull took over 23 days.

“This is when we start looking at our field of racers for who we think might win and who is going to make a really good story,” says Race Boss Daniel Evans. It’s his belief that it will be a slower paced year than in the past. “We don’t have the concentration of larger multihulls we’ve had in prior years. They’ll be some fast boats, but the average boat size has gone down.”

In the burgeoning tradition of the race, there are those teams that are pushing the boundaries. For the first time ever there is a prone paddler attempting the race. Team Extreme Sobriety will attempt to complete the race laying on his stomach and paddling the board with his hands all the way to Ketchikan. “Yeah, and he intends to ride a bicycle from Ketchikan back home on Bainbridge Island,” Evans added.

“We also have an 40 foot IOR racing boat from the 80’s (Super Friends), a team trying to be the first to complete the race by pedal power alone (Take me to the Volcano), two teams returning (PT Watercraft and Trak Kayaks) are trying to beat the world records they set for fastest solo and fastest kayak with no sail, and another Stand up Paddler (Torrent) who is using the race to fuel a documentary to raise awareness about Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD in veterans. There is no end to the stories this year.”

Evans and the media film crew will follow the race on a variety of power boats recording and interviewing the teams as they find their own way to make it to Ketchikan.

“We kind of make it up as we go,” said Zach Carver, the creative mind behind most of R2AKs videos. “We go where we have to to get the shots and stay up editing and cutting while the boat moves to the next location. It’s a kind of 24 hours a day operation. And it’s during that time that we start to see the stories of the race grow and become tangible.”

Like with the question of who will win, it’s anybody’s guess what stories will emerge from the brave fleet of racers as they move northward. “One thing is for sure,” says the Race Boss. “As these teams sail into the forgotten reaches of our coastal wilderness, the story that does come out will be incredible.”

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