Ready, set, R2AK
Published on June 12th, 2022
We’re back. 829 days since the world was cancelled by the murder sneeze, Race to Alaska (R2AK) Central is shaking off the cobwebs and getting back in the saddle for a long delayed year of engineless hard charging to Alaska. Thank god.
Deep in R2AK’s command bunker we’re Rip Van Winkling our way out of forced hibernation. Our beards are a little longer, jumpsuits a little tighter than they were when we hung them up back in 2019. While R2AK Central is trying to remember where all the light switches are, both streets of Port Townsend are a sea of boat trailers, foul weather geared pedestrians, and R2AK t-shirted tourists and volunteers.
The marinas and boat launches are bumper to bumper with pedal-driven and paddle-wheeled weirdo craft, the movie theater is filled with the R2AK documentary. This is definitely happening, three years and finally since the last one.
With three years to prep, you’d think that teams would be dialed in and disciplined, fire-drilled and dojo-honed, executing a plan three calendars in the making. You’d be wrong, at least a conceptual “half” of the time.
For R2AK 6/ 2022, a few teams have resisted the urge to indulge-cope the pandemic by nerding up. Team Fix Oder Nix arrived three days early with their custom boat packed in a custom trailer. They trained the hell out of the last year but rolled up early so they could train the hell out of the starting line. They good.
Their only unchecked box is what you call the masts on a three-masted ketch. Sailing nerd translation: a Ketch is a boat with two masts, taller one up front. Up until R2AK 6/ 2022 the world has never seen a tall mast in front that had two other ones behind it. Schooners (tallest mast in back) have existed worldwide with up to 6 masts for centuries.
A ketch with the tallest in front with two behind: Wednesday. So what do they call their masts? Tall one in front: “Main.” Short one in back “mizzen.” One in the middle: “Middle.” Main, Mizzen, middle—and a lexicon is born.
Worldwide sailing nerds begin your esoteric and passionate argument in 3, 2,1…
Esoteric sailing nerd debate that doesn’t matter aside, there are real-deal, performance-based bona fides toeing the line at the same moment when the internet is quibbling. While some teams are scrambling to get to the start line, other teams are hard boiled (egg reference, in case you missed it. Subtle.)
Dojo-honed champions of Team Dark Horse are back with their hallowed and yellowed Olson 30, reigning champs, of sorts. R2AK 4th in 2019, they spent the pandemic training for their come-from-behind, last-minute win of 2021’s WA360. They’ve R2AK’d and finished top tier, then won the WA360 COVID near-beer/make-up race. These powerhouse sailors from the great seafaring state of Montana are back and ready to make a play for Ketchican’s money-spiked firewood.
While the big prepper energy exemplars might lead a belief that the shared story from R2AK’s soon-to-be starting line more often has the vibe of an all-nighter fueled by PBR and RedBull, boats are still being built, crews are meeting for the first time, passports are hoped to arrive in time as teams smoke the rest of their marijuana that can’t cross the border.
Ready or not, R2AK.
Team Sockeye Adventures sailed for the first time on their trimaran-ed Bolger folding schooner, an unnamed team fetched up on the rocks while testing their various systems (successful test, systems failed), we thought our resident Porn Star on Team Try Baby Tri was going to have to pull out because he had something come up, but then surprised everyone when he decided that the opening in his schedule should be filled with R2AK.
Team Perseverance’s boat is done-ish, as of yesterday. “Now all I need to do is get my gear” and that’s just skipping across the surface. Across the 98368 zip code, teams are grappling with the, “Wait, we leave tomorrow?” reality that is the day before. These are the stories that Stage One’s hypothermic sorting hat was invented for.
As of time of writing, there are 24 hours, three pots of coffee, and a Ruckus between this tight jumpsuited keyboard and go time. Can’t. Effing. Wait.
Ready, Set, R2AK.
Race to Alaska, now in its 6th year, follows the same general 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. Here is the 2022 plan:
Stage 1 Race start: June 13 – Port Townsend, Washington
Stage 2 Race start: June 16 – 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.
In 2019, there were 48 starters for Stage 1 and 37 finishers. Of those finishers, 35 took on Stage 2 of which 10 were tagged as DNF.
Source: Event media