The third annual Race to Alaska (R2AK) kicked off at 5 a.m. last Thursday as 64 vessels large and small left Port Townsend, headed first to Victoria B.C. and eventually, for many, to Ketchikan, Alaska. The race structure is straightforward: “No motor, no support, all the way to Alaska.”
We were in Port Townsend on Wednesday as many of the boats arrived and people readied for an evening “Ruckus” sendoff event. Entrants ranged from standup paddleboards and kayaks to rowing boats and sailing crafts of all types. Smaller vessels generally entered for the first 40-mile Victoria leg only. The entire race is 750 miles, give or take, depending on capriciousness of the wind.
Can you see the three pedaling setups here? Sailors don’t always rely on wind alone.
Winds picked up on Thursday and boat were scattered across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and up into Oak Bay east of Victoria. Two rowers arrived first in Victoria on Thursday. Tomorrow 41 of the entrants will leave Victoria destined for Ketchikan. According to the R2AK website, the race can be finished in anywhere from four days to never.
The race website is entertaining, full of information, and includes a tracker which follows each of the boats. Here’s an excerpt:
“What is the best boat for R2AK?
Great question. We have no idea. We intentionally picked the start date because the winds are of unpredictable strength and duration. There is an ongoing debate on whether the optimal boat will favor sail, oars, or paddles. From the conversations we’ve had, usually sailors are scared of the rowers, rowers are scared of the sailors, and kayakers don’t seem to be scared of anything. Our best advice is to choose a boat design based on your skills, then go for it.”