WA360: Racers, cruisers, and paddlers

Published on May 2nd, 2021

When the sixth edition of the Race to Alaska, that 750-mile adventure race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska, was rescheduled from 2020 to 2021, it was just another bump in a bumpy year. The Canadian border was closed, and so was the race.

But in 2021, with the needle still stuck on frustration, the ever-creative event organizers yelled ‘Omaha Omaha’, looked toward the endzone, and audibled to a play they called the Washington360. Since shorted to WA360, it’s allegedly the longest race of its kind in Washington. Here’s an update from race HQ:

WA360. A celebration. An adventure. 360 miles of engineless, unsupported boat racing, circling Puget Sound. We stole the framework of Race to Alaska, because the Canadians still won’t let us in, and twisted it into one of the toughest boat races ever seen on these waters. And bonus, it meets all COVID precautions offered up by our governments.

All one needs, after applying and being accepted, is to head to the Northwest Maritime Center (Port Townsend, WA) on June 7 and cross the start line at 6 AM.

From there it’s a dash south to Olympia, back up to Skagit Bay—where you must choose the rapids of Deception Pass or the shifting mud of the Swinomish Channel. After rounding a buoy in Bellingham Bay and running past our most northern Washington territory of Point Roberts, head south through the San Juan Islands to cross the finish line in front of the Northwest Maritime Center.

Do it without planned support or an engine, and within two weeks. That’s it.

Fifty-three teams have decided to take the run: 16 looking for the win in our Go Fast class, 24 pushing their cruisers to the edge in our Go Hard class, and 13 are doing it with human power alone in the Human Power class.

These people are titans and your neighbors, hardworking employers, and employees. Racers, cruisers, and paddlers. They are folks you may have read about and others who never made it into the news cycle. A handful has been on the planet for over 70 years, and one for only four.

Yup, team Fisheries Supply Unicorns with Pretty Horns is crewed by a 4 year-old girl who insisted her professional cyclist father and veteran sailor grandfather go pound waves with her for 360 miles. She may know more about sail shape than we do, and when the weather looks dicey, commands from her cockpit seat at the companionway. She’s our Laura Dekker at ¼ of the age.

We have adventure luminaries from our other races as well—2018 Race to Alaska champions and all-female crew, Sail Like a Girl, are looking for another challenge, as are Steak Knife winners Big Broderna and part of Jungle Kitty.

SEVENTY48 champions (conquerors of HQ’s 70 mile pedal, paddle, or row race) fill our ranks with the muscle-bulked winners Wave Forager, Boogie Barge, and Karl Kruger, who is also the only human to have ever completed Race to Alaska on a stand-up paddleboard, setting a world record for racing a SUP.

This time Kruger is sailing as Mustang Survival’s Ocean Watch with his 13 year-old daughter Dagny, Emilie—the nurse who’ll patch them up—and Molly, owner of the R2AK-veteran race vessel they’re riding, a sporty Melges 24 called Millennial Falcon.

It’s impossible to highlight all the incredible stories.

Katy Stewart, team Razzle Dazzle, is racing and has raced in every adventure race we’ve hosted but one.

Teams Paddle On Paddle On and Rogue Kayaker are married but in separate kayaks. After having crushed both years (2018, 2019) of SEVENTY48, they’re back for the next human-powered challenge.

And in our worst form of self-punishment, there are a handful of teams, like Lillian Kuehl of team Interstice, who are actually racing SEVENTY48 the day before racing WA360.

Catamarans, trimarans, monohulls, beach cats, kayaks, SUPs, surfskis, and some weird pedal thing. You’ll see them all on the course.

We’ll be doing the best we can to tell their stories, and you can follow all of it at the website, and on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Better yet, kick it off by coming down to the Maritime Center on June 7 by 6 AM and experience a start line akin to swarming locusts emerging from the soil after 16 years, or a passel of socially-distanced folk exhausted after a year of being housebound. Regardless, a melee of energy; a celebration of adventure starting with the single fire of a loud gun.

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