There’s no other way to break the news than to just say it: Race to Alaska (R2AK) 2021 has been canceled.

Being a R2AK alumni and finisher in 2018, it’s particularly disappointing to me because I know how amazing the race is for all the competitors, the fans, and those who volunteer and work on putting together this truly amazing event.

That said, I fully understand there’s nothing that can be done about a closed border and that the need to protect communities along the route is of utmost importance. So in the end, I get it, and fully support the decision.

Fortunately, my disappointment was belayed by the news of the new WA360 race that will start on June 7, 2021 from Port Townsend and take competitors from Point Roberts to Olympia and then back to PT. No, it’s not R2AK, but it’s not trying to be either. I’m excited to see who signs up and how this new event goes, and I’m hopeful that the Race to Alaska can get back on track in 2022.

Here’s the full update from R2AK High Command:

In 2020 we witnessed the Canadian border drop like a guillotine on the neck of Race to Alaska. Since our imprisonment, we at high command have watched the world tear itself apart in an effort to put itself back together more COVID-resilient. However, the border is still closed and the communities along the race route remain fragile and do not want us anywhere near their shores. And we have no desire to be their Grim Reaper.

Last year, in an effort to predict the future, we threw ourselves out of an airplane with a mess of wet tea leaves and it told us nothing. Now we think the plane has COVID and we are staying 6 feet from the runway. This year, the truth isn’t going to be found in a fortune teller. Race to Alaska needs to be vaccinated and we are low on the list of U.S. recipients. No borders opening, no health assurances, giant swaths of people refusing to wear masks or keep at prescribed social distances…

R2AK is not running in 2021.

So what do you do when Race to Alaska has been shot in the heart, not once, but twice? What do you do when you are dumped by Canada?

Have fun just in sight. Toss your hair back and head to Point Roberts. Make out with San Juan Island while Vancouver is watching.

We’re running a race in 2021, and it’s called WA360.

That’s pronounced Washington360 if you’re stumbling a little. It’s the longest race of its kind in Washington and—much like its Alaskan counterpart—engineless, unsupported, and 360 miles through the best and worst conditions Washington waters have to offer. It’s like R2AK with less bears and more hospitals, and SEVENTY48, but longer and more absurd (SEVENTY48 is still a go in 2021!).

We even came up with a cool by-line:

COVID conscious, logistically light, and demands all the skill, tenacity and patience you can muster.

You can find more information on the website. The application goes live January 15.

We here are not blind to the tragic, horrible, unprecedented and savage results COVID has wreaked on peoples around the world, nor the severe hardship and mental strain COVID leaves in its wake. Like with R2AK, we hope, among many things, WA360 is a moment to leave other realities behind and rediscover the strength and resilience we each hold within ourselves so we may return to a world, in whatever form of disarray we left, and help make it better.

Race to Alaska is not going away. Fortunately, the Inside Passage doesn’t give a damn when we show up, and its taunting invitation is perpetual.

It’s time to get on the water, obey COVID rules, respect one another, and push the envelope once again. Let’s celebrate the best of what we have in the ways we know how. Let’s go adventuring.

Learn more about WA360 here.