WA360: Human power crushes all

Published on June 8th, 2021

The Pacific Northwest corner of the country is like another country in this country. Among the beautiful coastline, green interior, rainy weather, and spectacular mountains, this earthy loving community is game for adventure.

When your wet winter alternates between grey and dark, you tend to go for it when you can, and the WA360 is that kind of race for these kind of people.

Starting in Port Townsend on June 7, 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 the most northern Washington territory of Point Roberts, the course turns south through the San Juan Islands to cross the finish line in Port Townsend.

Entrants are signed up for either the speedy Go Fast class, the cruisey Go Hard class, or the Human Power class. Otherwise, the only caveats is to do it without planned support or an engine, and within two weeks.

So as the clocked hit go, the people cheered, the vessels jockeyed for position in light breezes, and it was on like Donkey Kong–360 miles of hopes, dreams, devastating failure, and exultant triumph. 155 racers crossed the line and began the first-ever WA360.

What happened next? Sailing backward in tide rips at Marrowstone Point. Eighteen tacks to solve the problem of a windless PT cut. Paddling through eelgrass in 18 inches of water in Kilisut Channel.

Racers made every choice imaginable, including Team Interstice banging a quick right just before Foulweather Bluff and charging solo into the unknown reaches of Hood Canal. What’s the plan there? Some crazy solution to the riddle of WA360?

But here’s the headline: HUMAN POWER CRUSHES ALL. That’s right. With something like a thousand feet of bicycle chain powering pedal drives all over the course, it’s the folks with oars and paddles ahead of them all.

Next year we’ll vet teams with a blood test to ensure they are human beings and not some kind of monster created in a lab. Here’s the fact sheet from the first 24 hours:

• 150 Media boat miles
• 55 Teams at the start
• 155 Crew on boats at the start
• 1 DNF (Turn Point Design)
• 1 DNS (Sockeye Voyages)
• 482 Minutes for the first team to travel ~84 nautical miles and round the Olympia Shoal (BendRacing)
• 64 Minutes for the first race team to run aground (Barely Heumann)
• 3 Minutes underway until Team Try Baby Tri went ashore to return his rental car
• 24 Hours that human-powered teams have held 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place (in 24 hours)

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