Tuesday, June 25th, 0830:

Then there were two.  Team ‘Backwards AF’ finished yesterday leaving Team Sloveig and Team Wee Free Men on final approach.  Both teams were up early this morning headed for Ketchikan.  Sloveig should be there first this morning between 9 and 10am pacific.   Team Wee Free Men is about 50nm out, so perhaps later today, or tomorrow.   Their speed has been between 2 and 4 knots, so we’ll see how they do as the get a bit closer.

Both teams have different takes on the Scandinavian Faering, a small boat design dating back to the Viking era.  Somehow fitting these two have the honor of closing out this year’s R2AK.

Keep in touch R2AK’s facebook feed as these teams finish.  They’ll have some good stories.

Finishing an R2AK is bittersweet.  I vividly remember those last couple of hours seemed like they took two days.  These teams have been preparing for the better part of a year.  Training, boat preparation, food, all the gear.  An endless list that is never quite done.   Part of you wants it over, parts of you want to to last forever.  As Ketchikan draws near part of the brain is screaming for a hot shower, cold beer, a good meal, and a stable bed.  But under that are churning emotions that take a while to sort out.

R2AK 2019 is drawing to a close and will be over when the last Faering crosses into Thomas Basin in Ketchikan.



Sunday 0730.  Ziska.  Finally. Finished.  I can’t wait for the stories to emerge from this one.  The first to finish racers have only 4 days of stories to tell.  Ziska’s crew to 16 days to accumulate stories.

The race formally ends one week from today with 4 teams left to go.  ‘Funky Dory’ is out.  The injury to Thor’s shoulder got worse and they’ve wisely ended their run.

The only full human powered boat, “Backwards AF” is just 40 nautical miles away from Ketchikan.  One final sprint with a late finish or will they camp one more night.  We’ll see.

Team Sloveig should be next.

Wee Free Men certainly has a shot to beat the sweeper.  Their course would suggest full commitment to getting to Ketchikan under the time limit as they bypassed the longer, but more protected, Grenville channel.

Try Baby Tri was in at Shearwater last night.  Increasingly the math is working against beating the sweeper.

Put this on your Calendar:  Friday September 6th.  Blazer Party in Port Townsend.  We’ve heard there may be some changes coming to R2AK, but we’ve also been told that if you are planning to do R2AK in 2020, any changes that may or may not be forthcoming won’t affect you or impact your planning.  And, no, I don’t know exactly what that means.  Any changes would be announced at the Blazer Party.


Friday 6/21, 1000 hours:  Quillbians, the 21st finisher, came in Tuesday morning, leaving six remaining participants now battling a new competitor.  The Grim Sweeper.

The Grim Sweeper left Port Townsend on Wednesday and will either motor, sail, peddle, paddle or row (no one, it appears, really knows) their way up to Ketchikan at a rate of roughly 75nm per day, tapping out racers if they get passed.   By R2AK math, this will end the race Sunday, June 29th.

Of the 6 remaining teams, 3 of them have decent shots of finishing within the time limit.

Ziska (Sail like a Luddite) took the outside route and is finally on a decent tack at just over 3 knots.  They’ve been carving their initial “Z” in their wake with tacking angles only a 112 year old vessel could love.  Que up the tracker and follow their course.  No vessel in R2AK history, and probably since the age of steam, has covered more miles to get from Port Townsend to Ketchikan.  Hard fought and well done, but they have some current battles in front of them.

Team Backwards AF has made great progress and is currently in Grenville channel.  With roughly 114 miles to go, if they can maintain ~15 miles per day, they’ve got this.   Team Sloveig  is still in the hunt behind Backwards AF. For both teams, Dixon Entrance will be one of the final challenges.

Math gets a little tougher for ‘Wee Free Men’.  They’ve got less of a weather window for Dixon at this point.  They are around 200nm from Ketchikan meaning they’d have to average around 25nm per day.  Possible, but they’d have to step on the gas.

Funky Dory and Try Baby Tri are behind the curve.  As of this writing, Funky Dory has rounded Cape Caution and was in Fitz Hugh Sound, but their tracker hasn’t yet broadcasted today.  Try Baby Tri has also rounded Cape Caution but behind Funky Dory.

Two rescues took place earlier in the week.  First, John Guilder (Team You either do stuff or you don’t) capsized in Johnstone Strait Sunday night and spent 30 minutes in the water before being rescued by a commercial fisherman then transported to Blind Channel Resort where a picture shows him smiling (there are far worse places to be stuck than Blind Channel Resort!!).

The other rescue took place in Dixon Entrance and involved team Holopuni and their Hawaiian Canoe in the wee hours of Monday morning.  Below is Chris Fagan’s account:

“As you may have heard, our Race to Alaska didn’t end in Ketchikan as expected, but instead ended with Team Holopuni being rescued from the amazing Canadian Coast Guard. We are all safe and warm in Prince Rupert. As we sailed through the night the weather worsened, and near celestial reef, unexpected high seas (7 feet as reported by the coast guard) crashed over our boat and caused spray skirts to implode. The waves came faster than we could pump the water and soon the water won the battle and the entire canoe was swamped. About 15 miles from land, we couldn’t come ashore and bail. Since we have an outrigger sailing canoe, the amas and bulkhead in the back and front kept her afloat. Our Holopuni Canoe was a seaworthy champ, and may just have saved our lives. After pushing the SOS on our SPOT and calling the Coast Guard on our VHF radio, we waited for 2 hours for rescue. We perched above the 50 degree water as waves crashed around us. While we were short of about 40-45 miles of finishing the 750 mile Race to Alaska, we had an amazing adventure in an astoundingly beautiful part of the world! While we had to abandon the boat this morning, we are working to recover her as she still has the SPOT on her to show her location. Thanks to the Canadian Coast Guard for being there in our time of need. Thanks for all of the well wishes.”

R2AK published a thoughtful piece about that pivot point between a well executed calculated risk and calling a Mayday.  Having crossed Dixon entrance in a leaky wooden boat with no electronics back in the ’70’s,  a 21 foot speed boat as well as ‘Wild Card’, I’m not going to second guess their decisions.

R2AK will end on Sunday, June 29th.  Just in time to start thinking about next year’s Seventy48 and the 2020 edition of R2AK.



Thursday 6/13 0900 hours:  Last year’s Olson 30 that bested us in Wild Card for the steak knives got by Mac on Kermit.  So ‘Dazed and Confused’ sailed past ‘Team Ketchikan Yacht Club’ to finish 8th by a margin of just 5 minutes.  I texted Ken Legg, last year’s steak knife winner and previous owner of that Olson 30 and congratulated his old boat.  He texted back “want a rematch?”.  I also heard from Mac who texted “It was an excellent game played by all”.

High Seas Drifter, another Olson 30 was next to finish.

As predicted ‘Givin’ the Horns’ fixed their rudder and should finish today.  Behind them are 6 more teams above Bella Bella.

Ziska, rocking the course earlier in the race, has had a slow slog of it through Johnstone Strait and is currently in Alert Bay.

If you haven’t read it yet, the latest update from R2AK chronicles the last day of the race for some of the front runners.  Frightening seas, broaches, and tough choices.  As R2AK puts it, the “knife edge between tragedy and triumph‘.

Tuesday 1000 hours:

Seven Teams are in, all seven raced 24/7 and put their all into it.  In order of finish and their times:



AK time


Team Angry Beavers




Team Pear Shaped Racing




Team Shut up and Drive




Team Sail Like a Girl




Team Educated Guess




Team Trickster




Team Narwhal



One performance that caught my eye was Team Educated Guess. Earlier in the race they had been shadowing Team Sail Like a Girl and ended up finishing just 33 minutes later. Educated Guess is a Melges 24 and Sail Like a Girl is a materially faster Melges 32. For the 24 to get that close is a remarkable tribute to Evan Walker, Jake Newton, Max Fleischfresser and Peter Horton. Both of those sport boats had frightening downwind experiences chronicled in the most recent R2Ak update.

In the home stretch and less than 50nm away is Mac with Team Ketchikan Yacht Club (Sc27) with Barry and crew in Dazed and Confused’ (Olson 30) in hot pursuit.  That has been a fun race to watch. The other Olson, High Seas Drifter, took an inside route and will likely finish behind the other Olson and the Santa Cruz.

On the tracker, there’s a significant gap between the 3 boats mentioned above and all others.  Team Givin’ the Horns has created a new rudder in Shearwater and is underway again. Kudos to them for not giving up—true R2AK spirit.

Henry, on Team North to Alaska is eating up the miles. How that aluminum sharpie, built as a high school project, can be ahead of some trimarans is a tribute to Henry and team. 

Two side bars that came together yesterday:  Drew Smith, on Team Razzle Dazzle, led the sing along last year at the R2AK bonfire in Ketchikan. Handy with the guitar, he had Molly and Kelsey from Ptarmigan belting out tunes with Michele from ‘Strait to the Pool’ room. This year, I was walking the docks at Port Townsend chatting with Evrard Martens on team WIP.  Turns out we both have old Lopez island connections. Suddenly his crew, Christian and Max, break out into spontaneous song with damn respectable ad hoc harmonies. Those two side bars came together yesterday when, on a glass smooth Queen Charlotte Strait, WIP and Razzle Dazzle rowed near each other. They lashed the boats together forming an odd ‘Quadmaran’ and broke out the guitars and harmonies. Probably one of the worlds most remote concerts.  All the time both teams were peddling their respective craft.

The race continues, winners all.

Read Jake Beattie’s excellent race report on the finish HERE

Monday 1930 hours.

Team Angry Beavers rings the bell in Ketchikan! Photo courtesy of Charley Starr and the Northwest Maritime Center.

Right on schedule, Team Angry Beavers was first to finish and captured the $10,000 prize.  Team Pear Shape Racing finished second for the steak knives.  Shut up and Drive is currently third, but hasn’t quite shut the door on Sail Like A Girl.  Right now, that’s the race to watch.   As I mentioned before, Sail Like a Girl took an inside course after Bella Bella with Shut up and Drive swinging outside.  That move didn’t pay out for us last year on our Santa Cruz 27 but looks like it helped Shut up and Drive.  Time will tell how this turns out.

Coming into Ketchikan is a relief.  We (like all the teams) sailed hard right to the end.  Then seemingly a few seconds later we were at the dock.  Ring the bell, chug a beer, pictures, and it’s over.  But in your mind it isn’t over.  You can’t just stop the processes that have been going on for the last several days.  All of a sudden you have to talk to new people about topics you haven’t thought about for a while.  The only thought you’ve had for several days is to make the boat go faster.  And you are standing  on something that isn’t moving.  You don’t feel right.

Raelyn was on hand for our coming in and Dan Blanchard, fellow ‘D Dock’ resident in Ballard, wrapped me up in a bear hug when I got on the dock.  But the transition from racing to full stop not racing is jarring and disorienting.  From everything moving which felt completely normal to solid ground which strangely felt odd and unnatural.

Last year, one of the first things that Jennifer Vincent on ‘Fashionably Late’ said was ‘ when am I going to feel normal?’.  I think it took us a few days and even then it took me a lot longer to fully process the race.

There were two teams ahead of us last year but Lagopus, who we had battled so hard earlier in the race, came down to meet us and welcome us in.  That gesture is still warmly remembered.    Both of us welcomed in Bo, Jack, Molly and Kelsey aboard Ptarmigan for 4th and then the 3 teams went out to one of the best dinners I’ve had in a long time.  Steak knives were put to use.

I would encourage all the teams to welcome those who finish after you.  They’ve fought just as hard but have slower boats and they took longer.  They likely suffered more.

The first two are in, the 2nd two are still in battle, Mac is still dueling it out with two Olson 30’s, Ziska is making progress, Razzle Dazzle is likely having the most fun on the course, and Wingnuts has a long waterway in front of them.  The race to finish first is over, but the race in total is far from over.

Monday 1000 hours.  Team Pear Shaped racing reports “heinous” conditions overnight, but all safe.   While no confirmed position, this could be close.  Angry Beavers is some 50nm out, so perhaps 1600 hours give or take 30 minutes?

Assuming their tracker is working (growl).


Monday 0345 hours:  Pear Shape Racing’s Tracker is down, but Angry Beavers is 110nm south of Ketchikan flying along at 10 knots.  The horse can smell the barn.

Assuming Pear Shaped Racing is either in the lead or battling for 2nd, the race for third is an interesting one.  Team Shut Up and Drive was behind Sail Like a Girl at Bella Bella, but when Sail Like a Girl, like last year, took the inside route, Shut up and Drive took the outside route into Hecate Strait.  Last year, in Wild Card ( Santa Cruz 27), we were within sight of Sail Like A Girl at Bella Bella and also took the outside route as we figured it was our only move against the faster Melges.  It didn’t work for us as we found very little wind. Things are different this year.

Shut Up and Drive has at least two things we didn’t have. A Beneteau Figaro 2 and wind. Will it be enough to overcome the Melges?  Stay glued to the tracker.

At this point in the race for the leaders, we felt renewed energy. The end was close.  As we got into cell service we knew we were third, the other two boats had finished.  It had been a fun, but exhausting effort.  All on board were glad it was winding down.  I imagine that is being felt now on the two lead boats, but tensions are likely still very high on Shut Up and Drive and Sail Like a Girl.

The other interesting race within a race I’m interested is Mac, on his SC27 and the two Olsons.  ‘Dazed and Confused’ is the exact same boat that Ken Legg and crew used to get the steak knives last year.  Mac currently holds a slim lead over Dazed and Confused.

Jake and super fan Raelyn are currently in Ketchikan preparing for arrivals today.

One note on the tracker:  All tenured tracker junkies will know this, but if something looks amiss, click on the boat’s icon and and look at the ‘reported’ time at the bottom of the pop up.   As I write, it looks like ‘Shut Up and Drive’ is passing ‘Sail Like a Girl’, but ‘Sail Like A Girl’s’ tracker hasn’t updated in just over an hour.  They are at about 7 miles from their last reported position.   Their icon hasn’t moved — but that boat certainly has!

‘Givin’ the Horns’ is in Shearwater with a plea out for a new rudder.  Hopefully they can continue as up until Johnstone Strait they were sailing exceptionally well.

Sunday 1615 Hours:  Just got word that ‘Givin’ The Horns’ got hit by a micro burst in Johnstone Strait.  Described as ‘very spicy’.  Damage to rudder and headed for repairs.  More later as known.

Sunday 0930:  Team Pear Shaped Racing’s tracker is now being manually updated as they approach Bella Bella.  Catch the action here.

Angry Beavers is in 2nd with Given Hornsin third. Sail Like A Girl, 4th, is in hot pursuit.  On the outside of Calvert island but well trailing Sail Like a Girl is Team Shut up and Drive.

Trickster and Educated guess chose the inside going up Fitz Hugh Sound (that move likely didn’t do us favors aboard Wild Card last year).

R2AK published another update here

Along with that is their ‘clip of the day‘ with some stunning footage of Team Pear Shape Racing taking a run at Seymour Narrows against the current.  They had to abort the attempt for reasons clear on the video.

Sunday 0430: R2AK is stretching into its 3rd day.   The fleet stretches nearly the length of Vancouver Island.  Ziska has  cleared Seymour Narrows.   The 52 foot, 12 ton, century old vessel is rocking the course.

Tracker problems abound.   Notably Team Pear Shaped Racing’s tracker isn’t working.  Presumably they are still in first as R2AK reported last night.  As of 2030 hours R2AK reported Team Pear Shaped Racing in the lead approaching Cape Caution with Angry Beavers about 10 miles behind with Givin the Horns in 3rd.

Updates included ‘Sail Like A Girls’ plea to ‘send wind’ and Mac (Team Ketchikan Yacht Club) noted that last night in Queen Charlotte Strait was a repeat of his first race; glass calm.

Sail Like A Girl is in 4th and is exceptionally well sailed.  Last year at this point in the race we in Wild Card (Santa Cruz 27) had a slim lead over the Melges with Lagopus (Olson 30) right in the mix.  This year there’s considerable distance between the Melges and Mac’s SC27 as well as the two Olson 30’s.

From the moment the race starts, the leading teams are focused on one thing.  Making the boat go faster. The world shrinks in size and there’s only one goal.   Keeping the boat moving as fast as you can.  Trimming sails. Sail changes.  On the pedals.  Off the pedals.  Trim the sails.  Time for the number one to go back up?  Come back down?  Back on the pedals. Wind shift.  Asym Up.  Wind shift.  Asym down, #1 back up.

This will be the 3rd day of that focus, grabbing sleep in shifts.  We found that our appetite slowed and sleep deprivation clouded thinking and mood.  That’s what the teams are beginning to battle now.   They are approaching the halfway mark and that’s when team dynamic issues may arise.  So much work has been done, so much effort put forth.  The starting line is a distant memory and the finish line is nowhere in sight.

It does look like Sail Like a Girl’s plea is being answered.  Wind is on the way.  As I write Angry Beavers is doing 7 knots.   First light’s wind would partially erase the night’s glass water frustration.

Next ‘stop’, Bella Bella.



Saturday 0500 hours

At least ten boats got through Seymour over night.   The ‘at least’ is due that as I write, 3 of the trackers don’t appear to be updating, including team ‘Angry Beavers’ on the Schock 40.   My working assumption is they are with Team Pear Shaped Racing battling it out for the lead.

The three front runners, ‘Pear Shaped Racing’, ‘Givin The Horns’ and presumably Angry Beavers are stretching out the lead on the next group of four boats, ‘Shut up and Drive’, ‘Sail Like a Girl’, ‘Educated Guess’ and ‘Trickster’.

‘Team Narwhal’ also got through, but at the moment is well behind the group of four.

The last two boats to make it through were Mac, on ‘Team Ketchikan Yacht Club’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’.

It was interesting to watch ‘Shut up and Drive’ and ‘Sail Like A Girl’ as they approached Campbell River in Discovery Passage.  ‘Sail Like A Girl’ was in the center of the channel and behind them was Shut Up and Drive a bit to the east headed more towards Cape Mudge.  The flood was running so both had adverse current.  I texted a friend who is an ardent supporter of R2AK (generally described as R2AK’s ‘super fan’) and wrote “watch those two boats over the next few minutes”.  Sure enough, Shut up and Drive took advantage of the back eddy formed by Cape Mudge and did a quick pass around ‘Sail Like A Girl’.

We played that same back eddy last year and it provides a huge advantage over those trying to battle the current up the middle.

Just to drive the point home that it’s a long race, last year ‘Lagopus’ was well behind us approaching Campbell River and just squeaked through Seymour Narrows on the same exchange as us and Sail Like a Girl and Ptarmigan.  Russell Brown also made it through on that exchange, but by that time, he needed sleep.  Lagopus caught up to us in Johnstone Strait and we both passed Sail Like a Girl early in the morning.  We went on to hold the lead for about a day, but Sail Like a Girl was first to finish with Lagopus second.  We got third.  So much racing remains!


Friday 1730 hours.  In the lead, ‘Team Pear Shaped Racing’ did not get through Seymour in time.  The fleet will compress in the next few hours.   I just demoted myself from the prediction business, but it’s likely now that several boats will make the next exchange.  New hope for several teams.

Start checking the tracker around 2120 hours.  The next 15 minutes after that will likely show much activity.


R2AK is faster this year.  At 0430, Team “Sail Like a Girl” is just over 30 nautical miles farther than they were at that moment one year ago.  That said, (assuming all the trackers are on), they’re battling the Melges 24, Team Educated Guess, for seventh place.  The leader, ‘Team Pear Shaped Racing’, is 27NM ahead.

Five different routes were used to get through the Gulf Islands, with 4 out of the 5 front runners going through Active Pass.  ‘Team Pear Shaped Racing’ (TPSR), currently in front, “took a wrong turn at Active Pass”.  They went by the pass, re-thought their Porlier Pass option and doubled back to scoot through Active Pass.  ‘Team Angry Beavers’ passed them but TPSR overtook them in the Strait.

‘Team Shut Up and Drive’, who throughout the 1st leg and early during this 2nd leg is displaying their independent course decisions, was the only front runner to select Porlier Pass.

While currently not one of the front runners, Razzle Dazzle went all the way through the Gulf Islands exiting through Dodd Narrows.

Currently TPSR has 32nm until Seymour Narrows and should hit the ebb nicely (Update:  I may have to eat those words).  I’ve been though there several times, but I’m no expert on Seymour.  From my angle, there’s a moment between 1400 and 1500 hours when I’d probably wait.

We’ll see how many get through before 3pm.   It isn’t over till it’s over, but getting through Seymour first, or with the first group of boats portends the rest of the race.

Update:  This year, Seymour narrows could serve to effectively restart the race for many of the participants.  Watch the tracker at around 2pm through 4pm.  Can TPSR make through?  Will Angry Beavers go for it?  Longer odds on Givin’ The Horns.  For rest they could bunch up in Campbell river and have to suffer the indignity after a day’s worth of hard work much of the fleet will catch up to them.

R2AK’s recap of the damage done in the first leg is here.

To follow the race, here’s the tracker.



If you are an ardent follower of the Race To Alaska, you will have already read the official R2AK version of the first leg, or so called “Proving Ground”.  The 35 nautical mile jaunt from Port Townsend to Victoria.  If you haven’t read it, grab your favorite beverage.  Sip and read slowly.  It is exquisite.

As they usually say in the skippers meeting in Port Townsend, there’s nothing to gain on the first leg and everything to lose.  Getting to Victoria first shows boat speed, and it did, but it counts nothing towards the real race.  No points are awarded and the only value is checking that box however you can.  And a few didn’t (read R2AK’s 2nd update).

What did we learn during the first leg?  That Pear Shaped Racing and their custom tri is fast under sail.  Very fast.  We learned the competition is profoundly different than last year.  In addition to ‘Sail Like A Girl’, there are other high-quality racing teams focused on capturing line honors.

We picked the right year to race Wild Card, a Santa Cruz 27.  Last year’s 2nd and 3rd place finishers in Ketchikan were Lagopus, an Olson 30 with our Santa Cruz coming in several hours later.  The odds of  Olson 30 and Santa Cruz 27 being in the top 5 this year are remote.  Anything is possible, and given how the two Olsons did this year and Mac aboard Kermit, they may take advantage of attrition, but in my view there are too many faster boats.

We did learn that by and large the human powered group is a prudent lot showing seamanship and restraint.  Given the forecast, most chose the wise path of staying on the US side and crossing the following day.  It was tough seeing Oaracle, after several trips up the inside, miss the cutoff this year.

What didn’t we learn during the first leg?  Quite a bit.  How boats move under human power and the quality of decision making.  There also may be dark horses just figuring out their boat.  The Razzle Dazzle team is deep on sailing experience, deep on R2AK experience (Katy’s done 3, Drew 2), but are not ‘racers’ in the traditional sense (I think Drew told me this will be his 3rd race ever, 2 of them were R2AK’s).  Oh, and they haven’t sailed that particular boat before.  Ever.  For that team and likely others, their capabilities lie well above any first leg performance.

What I’ll be looking for today is boat speed within Victoria’s inner and middle harbor.  They’ve got 1 nautical mile from the Empress to Shoal point where no sails are allowed.  Human power only.  We won’t know how robust their human powered systems are before they hoist sails, but we will get a glimpse of speed potential.  If some of the ‘fast under sail’ boats are also fast under human power, then we can expect a spirited race for top honors.

By early afternoon we’ll begin to get an idea of top end speed potential under both types of propulsion, but the decision making process will be ongoing throughout the race.  Will they go inside or around the Gulf Islands – or will that decision be made for them?  Once they get north of the Gulf Islands, which boat or set of boats will get through the first tidal cycle at Seymour Narrows?

Seymour is the first big barrier that lets groups of boats go through in batches followed by hours of adverse current.  You don’t have to be first through, but to hang with the leaders you should get through in the same tidal cycle.  On Wild Card, we used a permanent marker on the side of the cockpit to show the currents at Seymour (it was a craigslist boat!).  It kept our target visible to all.

One of the key reasons we came in third last year after dragging our #1 headsail in the water all night in the Strait of Georgia (it was dark, we thought we had it secured, and we had only one test sail prior to the race.  We didn’t yet really know the boat), was our shot between Lasqueti/Jededia and Texada.  None of the boats ahead of us had done and it was a high risk move.  When we made the decision we were beating into the wind at night.  It was pitch black dark but we made the call to tack through the narrow channel.  As we made the final tack to enter the channel I can still hear Andy yell “We’re on a beam reach!!!”

The wind had shifted mid tack and what we thought would be dozens of tacks in the inky darkness became a scorching through shot between the islands.  Between that and Andy’s artful playing back eddies at Cape Mudge, we went through the same tidal gate as Russel Brown, Sail Like a Girl, Ptarmigan and Lagopus.  By that time, two of what we thought would be very fast boats missed that tidal gate.  Sean and team on BlueFlash had the unfortunate plight of being pinned in the gulf islands waiting for the Active Pass current and Wright Yachts was having several teething problems having just recently taken delivery of the boat.

We could see Sean stuck and we genuinely winced as they were a great group of young sailors.  We were rooting for them.  We also breathed a sigh of relief that we had gotten ahead of them.  An old Santa Cruz 27 would have a difficult time hanging with a J88.

Perhaps a long way of saying it’s one thing to be fast in and out of Victoria, but it’s a long race.  Much can (and will) happen


Update from WINGNUTS Monday 1630 hours:   Just heard from Alex Whitworth, team “Wingnuts”.  He said “It was a bit woolly for the second half.  Felt like at least 20 knots and short 2 metre seas just at the wrong wavelength for us so we couldn’t keep her moving”.  They missed the current about 30 minutes so they hunkered down and plan to make another run at Victoria at around 1800 hours.

So what does ‘A bit woolly’ mean. Let’s consider the source.  Alex Whitworth.  He’s circumnavigated the world twice double handed.  One via Cape Horn.  One via the Northwest passage.  He’s done both the Sydney Hobart race and Fastnet.  Twice.  And likely the first fellow ever to sail from Australia to England via the Northwest Passage and the first to circumnavigate via the Northwest passage under sail.  He’s also run some 30 marathons.  He’s 77 years young.

Alex knows ‘woolly’ when he sees it.


June 3rd am:

What a difference a year makes. One year ago we were madly preparing our boat “Wild Card” and this year I could walk the docks in Port Townsend with a serene smile on my face.  Zero obligations except to have fun and appreciate all the R2AK energy. There’s no single thread or vibe.   Most are there more for the adventure and fun than to really race, although this year’s competition for first to finish is a quantum leap from last year.

One of last year’s pre-race favorites, “Sail Like a Girl” is back with more depth and racing talent added to their roster. Unlike last year, there are other upper tier racing programs with both multi and mono hulls.

We picked the right year to race our Santa Cruz 27. The fact that last year’s 2nd and 3rd place finishers were an Olson 30 and a Santa Cruz 27 speaks volumes about last year’s fleet of R2Aker’s.   This year portends to be much different.

In addition to “Sail Like a Girl”, there are 2-3 mono hulls and 4 Tri’s that should be well sailed and awesomely fast. Just below that upper tier of speed potential, there are some competent sailors in what on paper are slower vessels. They’ll be waiting in the wings to capitalize on any attrition or mistakes.

Like last year, and all previous years, most of the fleet has little aspiration of ‘winning’ if finishing first defines the word. Mac, on Kermit, (another Santa Cruz 27 racing for Ketchikan Yacht Club) summed it up neatly. He wants to sail well and maximize his team’s ability. Unless disaster strikes, he’s likely not going to beat a Melges 32, a Schock 40 or a Benetaeau Figaro 2 or a Farrier 32.  If I use metaphors to describe the difference in speed potential someone will take exception to the one I pick, but I think all parties would agree that larger modern racing boats are quantum leap from smaller, older, racing boats.

The ‘proving ground’ leg from Port Townsend to Victoria was a measure of pure boat speed and some test of preparation for the racers. A few may have to re-invent some aspects of their boats, most will be tweaking little things.  The very well prepared can relax a bit.

One word to the racers about the 3 days in Victoria. Have fun with your fellow participants.  They are amazing people.  Last year we had great fun with many of the competitors.  As it turned out, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place overall finishers  became fairly close in Victoria not knowing at all how things would play out.  Some of the teams didn’t have that much social interaction with the other teams.  Either they had many supporters and family around that precluded mingle or were hyper focused on their own boats getting ready.

This is a golden time to rub elbows with and get to know some of the coolest people on the planet.

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June 2nd, 8am Port Townsend. As I write, the finishers from Seventy 48 are starting to wind down while the starters for R2AK are trying to finish their preparation lists. The town is full of both types of racers and it’s easy to tell them apart.

Regardless of age, the finishers of the human only powered Seventy48 are slightly stooped over and only marginally able to walk a straight line while all the time muttering ‘never again’. Several of them said the exact same thing last year when they finished. If you happen to see a familiar face amongst the finisher, the greetings generally don’t include shaking hands. Kind of an awkward light fist bump without really touching the blistered, curled abused fingers.

The R2AK folks, on the other hand, exhibit one of two traits. Some have furrowed brows and a mild panicked look. As if they had a list of twenty, critical things to remember and 7 of them slipped into a sleep deprived brain crevasse. Which, of course, is precisely what happened. Others are oblivious to everything except that which must be done.

One of my personal goals this weekend was to get a feel for the Seventy 48 race. Human powered only, no sails, participants have 48 hours to cover 70 miles between Tacoma and Port Townsend. Part of the entry fee includes a $100 stake and the winner takes all.

I got to meet several of the entrants for the first time in addition to renewing acquaintance with several of the participants I’ve known for many years. Some of the friendships date back over 4 decades.

In no particular order, the finishers included a group of high schoolers in a remarkable craft carrying 18 paddlers from Colorado. These young adults padded through night, battling considerable discomfort and finished in fine fashion. One of their teachers and instigators of the project, Kip, was quietly reflective of their accomplishment. The kids went through the predictable emotional cycles of the endeavor with many of them experiencing low points paddling through the night. They battled through, daylight brought renewed energy and the finished 24th . Using the word ‘kids’ doesn’t give the credit they richly deserve. They built the boat themselves and paddled to success. Well done Platte Canyon High School Yacht Club.

Nate Rooks finished 11th in a boat he built himself. At the finished line cheering Nate’s accomplishment was his brother Cooper. Nate and Coop were team ‘Bunny Whaler’ in the 2016 running of R2AK, taking the most unlikely craft, a boston Whaler Harpoon Sailboat, from Port Townsend to Ketchikan.

I saw Dot Hall, in her Epic V8, a couple of times, first shortly after first light Saturday morning in the Fog at Point No Point. She landed on the beach for a short rest. Her first words were “what a night” followed by “I haven’t stood up in 10 hours” and she wobbled to her feet after paddling all night. Smiling as she paddled into Port Townsend, Dot finished 19th.

Fresh off finishing a sailing/running race in Scotland, Ken Legg and his wife Barbara were in great form finishing in a rented double kayak. Ken and I have loosely stayed in touch over the past year as he was part of the steak knives winning team “Lagopus” in last year’s R2AK. The last time I had seen him was when he and his fellow mates greeted us in Ketchikan last year after we finished 3rd. Their kind gesture and holding onto the R2AK tradition of welcoming later finishers after only a few hours sleep stuck with me.

The most unexpected emotional moment for me was the sudden realization that Dave Pederson was about to finish. I had lost touch with Dave some 40 years ago. We took an old, leaky wooden Dragon Class sailboat together up the inside passage in 1978 all the way to Ketchikan and here was Dave rowing a single shell from Tacoma. It was a privilege to be on the dock, extending the bell for him to ring at the finish.
There are too many stories to cover in one article. One story I really need to dive into a bit more was ‘an old guy’ rowing an El Toro pram at the start. I couldn’t find him amongst the formal entrants and found out from raceboss Daniel Evans that some fellow had tried to enter the race late and while Daniel couldn’t take him as a formal entrant, he encouraged him to come out and participate anyway. When I saw this guy at a distance at the start, I gave him little chance of finishing.

Then on my facebook feed I finally connected the dots. The ‘old guy’ in the El Toro was my old Junior high and High School chum Bill Stange. For years he held the single handed Transpac race record. I think I first met Bill some 50 years ago in the late 60’s. Now that I know who’s in the El Toro, my initial ‘not a chance’ perception changed to certainty that he’d finish. Who the hell would row an 8 foot pram 70 miles? Who would race across the Pacific single handed? Same guy. Bill Stange.

Karl Kruger, part of R2AK’s DNA, finished 16th then paddled out to his very fine vessel ‘Ocean Watch’.

Ted Sweeny, also an R2AK vet, finished late last night around 10pm with (hopefully still) his girlfriend Anna Coumo.

Line honors and winners of $100 from each competitor went to Greg Spooner and Thiago Silva (Team Imua) rowing a Maas shell.

With team names like ‘Educate-OARS’, Aroma from Tacoma, Don’t Duet, Furious George, Midlife Crisis, Mostly Ballast, Sea Nymphs captured a dude, and ‘It Sounded good after two beers’, the combination of comedy and suffering comes together for Seventy 48.



Race to Alaska (R2AK), now in its 5th year, just closed its registration and 46 teams will be at the start line off Port Townsend at 5 a.m. on June 3rd. Three Sheets Northwest contributor and 2018 R2AK finisher aboard Team Wild Card, Mark Aberle, will be providing updates and insights into the 2019 race here, so keep an eye on the tracker and check back often.  

From R2AK Headquarters in Port Townsend:

“This is when we start looking at our field of racers for who we think might win and who is going to make a really good story.”says Race Boss Daniel Evans. “The stories and achievements are going to be tremendous.” Daniel points out that sixteen of the teams are under twenty feet with the smallest coming in at fourteen feet. The size of the boat alone will create exciting times for those teams.

The bio list does seem to be layered with adventure-seeking racers. Alex de Sain of Team Extremely Insain has finished both the world’s longest river and inland water races for a stand-up paddleboard. He hopes to cap his resume with what now has been deemed the longest open water race for a SUP in the world. (Not our words). He is one of two SUP racers hoping to do what has only been done once, finish the R2AK on a stand-up paddleboard.

In fact, 6 teams in total are attempting to finish the race on the strength of arms and backs alone; human power only and half of them are in traditional skiffs, like the kind you row to the bar when you are at anchor, except they’re rowing to a bar in Ketchikan. Following in the footsteps of that tradition, Stanford of Team Ziska is just going to row the house to the bar. In this instance, that means racing a 52’ gaff-rigged wooden sailboat that weighs around 12 tons.

The race is not without its speed, however. We have a custom racing trimaran out of New Zealand with Team Pear Shaped Racing who is looking for that 1st place 10K nailed to a tree. A couple of high octane racing teamsTeam Educated Guess and Team Shut Up and Drivewill be pushing stock monohulls with all the skill a crew can muster. And this year’s fast must mention Team Angry Beaver – Skiff Sailing Foundation. Their sailing resume looks like a list of every sailing race you can think of with placements like 1st, 5th, 3rd next to each one on the list. “Angry Beaver was a very late entry,” says Daniel, “but they have the knowledge, skill and boat to defy known physics and rip up the course.” They are sailing a monohull called a Schock 40 that has things like foiling rudders on both ends and a canting ballast keel; it’s like an alien space-boat that goes really, really fast. In fact, this year’s boat sizes range from 14 feet to 52, proving there are more ways than one to beat this challenge.”

There is no end to the stories this year, and the tracker is a good place to start. The tracker is a free-to-view map that allows online viewers to follow each team and even connects viewers to teams’ social media pages.

Daniel and the media film crew will follow the race on a variety of powerboats recording and interviewing the teams as they find their own way to Ketchikan. “We kind of make it up as we go,” said Zach Carver, the creative mind behind most of R2AKs videos. “We go where we have to to get the shots and stay up editing and cutting while the boat moves to the next location. It’s a kind of 24 hours a day operation. And it’s during that time that we start to see the stories of the race grow and become tangible.” All of the video clips, daily updates, and the tracker can be found online.

Like with the question of who will win, it’s anybody’s guess what stories will emerge from the brave fleet of racers as they move northward. “One thing is for sure,” says the Race Boss. “As these teams sail into the forgotten reaches of our coastal wilderness, the stories that do come out will be incredible.”


Ruckus — June 2, 12-8 PM,

Live Music Uncle Funk & the Dope 6 PM

Pope Marine Park, Port Townsend,WA

June 2, 7 PM

SEVENTY48 Finish and Awards

Pope Marine Park, Port Townsend,WA

Stage 1 Start

June 3, 5 AM,

Northwest Maritime Center Dock, Port Townsend,WA

Stage 2 Start

June 6, 12 PM

Victoria Harbor, BC