One month from the Race to Alaska

Published on May 8th, 2023

Somewhere between the harbor of Sydney, Australia (where one aspirant still hasn’t begun his solo ocean crossing to the start line), and a country lane just a stone’s throw south of Sherwood Forest (where last year’s Team Zen Dog has been licking his battered paws and planning for redemption), Race to Alaska 2023 has, in the hearts of the racers, already started.

All told, 112 humans, comprising 40 teams overall, are readying themselves for the seventh R2AK.

The rules still haven’t changed: get a boat (any boat). Take out the motor (if it had one in the first place). Get to Ketchikan before the race is over without any pre-planned support. Besides that, it’s all up to you.

The original idea behind this thing: We nail $10,000 to a tree in Alaska and say “Go get it.” The funny part? Most folks know even before they start that upon their arrival in Ketchikan, all they’ll find is what they brought, what they discovered along the way, and an empty nail hole and the lingering smell of money. Through six incarnations of the race, it’s become clear that the definition of “winning” might, in fact, be somewhat broader than who gets there first.

The R2AK course is a true wilderness and a place you’ve got to mean to be. That said, the race through it is built to bring that wildness and the stories the racers paint on it to anyone inclined to be inspired. The 24-hour tracker will be on for every minute, the media team will hunt down and capture each and every delicious story and bring it to your table through email, social media, and any other way they can find.

Race start: 5 AM, June 5, at the Northwest Maritime Center.

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The 7th edition of the Race to Alaska in 2023 will follow the same general rules which launched this madness in 2015. 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 2023 plan:

Stage 1 Race start: June 5 – Port Townsend, Washington
Stage 2 Race start: June 8 – Victoria, BC

While the Stage 1 course is simple enough, the route to Ketchikan is less so. Other than a waypoint at Bella Bella, there is no official course. Whereas previous races mandated an inside passage of Vancouver Island, the gloves came off in 2022. Previously, the course mandated the inshore passage but for teams that could prove their seaworthiness, they now had the option of the western route.

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.

There were no races in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. In 2022, there were 45 starters for Stage 1 and 34 finishers. Of those finishers, 32 took on Stage 2 of which 19 made it to Ketchikan.

Source: R2AK

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