Longest race of its kind in Washington

Published on June 7th, 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 shortened to WA360, it’s allegedly the longest race of its kind in Washington.

They weaved a 360 mile course of engineless, unsupported boat racing, circling Puget Sound, all south of the border as the Canadians remain in a COVID struggle, and twisted it into one of the toughest boat races ever seen on these waters. Because adventure without struggle is like warm beer… why bother?

When asked, here’s how the race organizers describe this first time event:

“At least for the sailors, WA360 isn’t a moonshot. It’s not R2AK’s challenge of sending a hopped up buoy racer through the wilds, rattling through big winds of the remote unknown, and hoping the Clif Bars and the jury-rigged mainstay hold out all the way to Ketchikan, Alaska. WA360 is more like scooping up all the backyard regattas that people already do, stitching them together into a single decathlon, subtracting the nightly promise of a warm bed and a good night’s sleep, then adding oars and pedal drives. WA360, ta-da.”

At the start on June 7, this body of water is known locally for parking lot racing. Sail hard in whatever winds are presented, sail into a hole in the wind and then drift to the next wind puff. There are 60 teams registered and three divisions – the speedy Go Fast class, the cruisey Go Hard class, and the Human Power class.

Who does something like this? Try…

• Team Bendracing who have a decade of experience in marathon kayak paddling. The team of two paddlers thought they would be finished in 4 days. They declared a cruise speed of 11k and top speed of 14k but the question remains, how long can they hold it. Water was the main concern as a 21′ kayak weighing 45lbs just doesn’t have much room in it.

• Team Old Salts on a Beneteau 40 with a PHRF of 51, an oven, bunks for 4, and a head… it all sounds good but their human propulsion is to be towed by a dinghy….??? One of them acknowledged the two week time limit for the race but mentioned he told his wife it would take a month!

• There Corsair 31s and one 32 along with two Melges 24s and sundry catamarans all competing for line honors. Local team Big Broderna (Corsair 31 from Anacortes), a veteran of at least 2 R2AK races, knows the NW waters the best and are fast. Put your money on this team unless the wind shuts off.

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