R2AK: Where are they??
Published on June 9th, 2019
(June 9, 2019) – This was going to be the day. Teams Pear Shaped Racing, Angry Beaver, and Givin’ the Horns running tight and fast, clearing the gates of Seymour, set up for Johnstone, the Queen Charlotte Sound, and then a sleigh ride forecast of 20+ southerlies in Hecate to and through Bella Bella. Southerlies in Hecate?!?!
This would be a 1 in 5 rarity to have favorable wind in Hecate. This was going to be big: a downwind fight and maybe the fastest run through R2AK’s back nine that this race has ever seen. For us here in the R2AK command bunker and the R2AK nation worldwide, this roughly reached the turducken-like importance of the Super Bowl, stuffed inside of whatever the Volvo Ocean Race is called now, stuffed inside of that cockfight we definitely didn’t go to when we were in the Philippines.
This was gonna be big.
We cleared our schedules, cleaned the house, and fluffed the cushions. We got our game day outfit pressed, starched, and bedazzled, then invited friends and sponsors to get excited, and readied ourselves to be surprised and humbled when we accept their compliments of how great we were doing. Then we made the snacks so we could all enjoy uninterrupted tracker-filled coverage of the tightest and most exciting R2AK we’ve had since at least last year.
…and then the racers turned north while everything else went south. The tracker map died sporadically, tracker units died forever, and there was never a time when we could see more than two of the lead teams. People stood in our living room and held their drinks awkwardly before slinking home as we whacked the monitor, rigged up some tinfoil, and jiggled the wires so that we could see something other than static.
Snacks, dammit, we made snacks.
Watching the tracker today was like that 5th grade sleepover when you spent all night staring at static because your friend swore it sometimes flashed a grainy Playboy channel. It looked like regular static, but you stayed for hours because he shouted a face-saving “Wait, is that a boob?!” Even the flicker of hope of a flicker of anything had you locked in for a few more hours. Same with us, same with this.
Not as an excuse to stall for creating a work around, but think of what it must have been like in the Age of Sail. You’d wave goodbye to your guy, the ship casts off lines, and he was effing gone. For years.
No tracker, no email, no phone, and the only letters you would get would be from the ones he handed to a random, non-piratey ship, who then handed it to another random non-piratey ship, and so on…and as long as the actual pirates never showed up you might get the letter before he returned two plus years later to reconnect with you and meet his awkwardly timed newborn. Back then your best strategy was to build some railings on the top of your house and walk around up there with a lantern and look for your ship.
Luckily things have changed since then. No tracker? We have racers’ moms—R2AK’s minuteman stop-gap to technology’s never ending fails. And the moms are doing great. Search the feed for #r2akmom, and you’ll get a ton of tidbits of unfiltered and unedited reports from Melissa’s mom and scores of other tracker junkies who heard the call and are flooding the virtual call center.
Our virtual phones are ringing off their virtual hooks. With all of their tech flash, engaging websites, and embedded journalists, the Volvo Ocean Race is fantastic, but do they have Melissa’s mom? Boom! Mic drop.
Big thanks to the ready reserve of tracker junkies, the neighborhood watch of R2AK media. This one looks like it’s going to take a village.
Ahem, the actual race you ask?
We know as much as you as to where Team Pear Shaped is waking up and how fast they are going. If the rest of the pack is any indication, rather than the traditional approach up the inside of Calvert Island, they took advantage of the big southerly blowing through and headed into Hecate for their approach on Bella Bella.
Team Angry Beaver looks to be doing the same and capitalize on their Shock 40’s ability to turn into a downwinding needle to make up some time. Lead Beave Matt Pistay let us know that the crew was in good spirits and were short tacking in Seymour and Discovery Channel with Pear Shaped in some great head to head sailing.
Sometime around 2 am they got hit with a wind hammer microburst in Johnstone Strait that pounded them and Team Givin’ the Horns with a right-now and out-of-nowhere 40 knots that beat them up and “took two years off our sails.” This morning’s 8 knot downwinder towards the northern checkpoint seems to leave the Beaves as less than crippled, but given the slower roll of Team Givin’ the Horns, their damage might have been more severe. More info as we get it.
The story we can tell today is the freight train rolling progress of First Federal’s Team Sail Like a Girl, who for the last 48 hours have been using teams as ladder rungs as they’ve climbed into a legit battle for third with Team Givin’ the Horns. These women are champions in more ways than one.
There are of course dramas playing out farther back that character limits won’t allow us to cover, but it’s hard not to mention the 100% pure R2AK moment of a 116 year old, 15 ton gaffer neck and neck with an outrigger canoe at the turn into Johnstone Strait.
In the history of forever, we’re pretty sure that those teams’ end-of-the-spectrum defining vessels have never been in the same race, let alone neck and neck, and here they are, clear of Seymour and duking it out. We’ve scrambled the air wing in the hopes of getting an image, but we’ve got a megawatt smile just imagining it.
While for most of us the story of Day 3 was dominated by a sincere and lasting tracker rage, the teams keep melting the miles, and with the steady southerlies, winds predicted the half of the race from Bella Bella could be won on Monday. Time to get our lantern and get on the roof.
UPDATE: As of 10 am Team Pear Shaped Racing’s tracker was reactivated and they are still ahead but within a couple miles of Team Angry Beaver. This is so damn exciting. Come on over if you want, we still have snacks.
24 Hour Fact Sheet
3 boats bought on Craigslist sight unseen (Tri Baby Tri which is a monohull), Ripple, and Yankee Peddlers.
6 times Angry Beaver restarted their SPOT before they hit the right button
61 years since they blew the crap out of Ripple Rock in the middle of Seymour Narrows so boats would stop running into it
0: Number of people of McGuffin Brothers (Team MBR) who wanted to say hello to during their live Facebook interview
3:1 ratio: Length of Team Ziska’s bowsprit to number of sundried tomato and parmesan omelettes eaten for breakfast. (Beat that, Pear Shaped Racing)
11: Number of lead trades between Teams Sail like a Girl and Educated Guess
2 hours: Length of time the top three lead teams (Pear Shaped Racing, Givin’ the Horns, Angry Beaver) traded tacks in Seymour Narrows
1 maybe 2: Number of McGuffin brothers who lied about sailing naked when we saw them
23% of 2018 teams were past Seymour Narrows at this time: 2200 on Day 3
55% of 2019 teams are past Seymour Narrows at this time: 2200 on Day 3
The Daily Fix by Boldly Went
This is the second episode of The R2AK Daily Fix 2019. Hear from some more teams who have braved the fierce winds to make it to Victoria and encountered some mishaps along the way and about the incredible race camaraderie and community both between teammates and other teams. R2AK Teams featured in this episode: Perseverance, Funky Dory, Angry Beaver
The R2AK Daily Fix is a podcast following the 750 mile Race to Alaska created and produced by Boldly Went Media. Hear interviews with racers, behind the scenes news, and the types of personal experiences that you won’t be able to access any other way. Grab a bucket, because we’re getting you so close to the experience that you might feel a little bit seasick. Listen here.
Race to Alaska, now in its 5th year, follows the same rules which launched this madness. No motor, no support, through wild frontier, navigating by sail or peddle/paddle (but at some point both) the 750 cold water miles from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska.
To save people from themselves, and possibly fulfill event insurance coverage requirements, the distance is divided into two stages. Anyone that completes the 40-mile crossing from Port Townsend to Victoria, BC can pass Go and proceed. Those that fail Stage 1 go to R2AK Jail. Their race is done.
Stage 1 Race start: 0500 June 3rd, Port Townsend, Washington
Stage 2 Race start: 1200 June 6th, Victoria, BC
There is $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 37 teams were accepted and 21 finished.
Source: Race to Alaska