It’s happening right now. Human powered boats (only) are fighting their way up the beautiful Northwest Passage to Ketchikan, Alaska. Kayaks, rowboats, little sailing dinghies, an F25 trimaran, a pedal powered sailing craft – as long as there is no gas or motor involved it’s fair game for an entry into this crazy 750 mile race. It’s the first ever Race to Alaska. (dreamed up by the Northwest Maritime Center)
After the sunrise start last Thursday morning, 13 of the 53 teams had very quickly dropped out of the race due to equipment failure and calamity met in the open ocean course that is the first leg of this race. Competitors had 36 hours to get from Port Townsend, WA 40 miles north to Victoria, BC where a pit stop and “layover” for rest and repairs was built into this challenging course. This first leg is a qualifier to enter the second leg, a 710 mile “jaunt” with no official course to follow (there are 2 waypoints) – it’s a first to finish WINS – and the purse? $10,000! For first place only – and second place winners get a set of steak knives. (really!)
So as you read this – the racers are sandwiched between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island with an F25 trimaran unbelievably launched way out in front of the fleet, defying the belief that no sailboat would be able to navigate the idle breezes and wicked currents of this area. Currently, second place is a Hobie 33 with modern conveniences like a head and sink and some nice comfy cushions for resting – in stark contrast to the paddlers with swamp butt and calloused hands and heart, who are behind these leaders but could pass them should the breeze die. Anything can happen out there!
Follow along the final days and hours of this craziness as this inaugural race captures the attention of the whole Pacific Northwest and many sailors, paddlers, dreamers and nuts all over the world. It’s a crazy undertaking and one which, even after the first leg pounded a good amount of competitors, is up for grabs and is truly a game of survival. Unless that F25 keeps this up. Then you might expect the rules to be tweaked for the next edition of the race…