PORT TOWNSEND — After 70 miles of blistered palms and strained muscles, it was time to celebrate the achievements of those who pedaled, paddled or rowed Seventy48, the inaugural human-powered watercraft race that began Monday in Tacoma and finished in Port Townsend on Wednesday.
Race Boss Daniel Evans congratulated the participants at the Race to Alaska Pre-Race Ruckus event Wednesday at Pope Marine Park. Several hundred people were present to view boats, talk racing, enjoy boater swag in booths, dance to the live band and party at the beer garden.
“You value adventure and the rush of life, and you’re willing to take risks that sensible people would never even consider taking,” Evans said to the racers and supporters.
Northwest Maritime Center organizers did not expect the overwhelming response they received when they dreamed up the event.
“Every team that entered would kick in a hundred bucks and winner takes all,” he explained. “I thought maybe 30 teams would sign up, $3,000 would be good. I’d be excited to get that. In the end, we had 114 teams at the race line — $11,400! Oh my goodness, we’ve got a race.”
As they went through the entries, one team stood out and they knew it would be a competitive event.
“Then we saw Greg Barton and Kevin Olney had signed up and we thought, ‘Ohhhhhhhh, we’ve got a race for sure.’ ”
The duo made up Team Epic, which won the event.
Barton is a sprint kayaker and three-time Olympian, with gold and bronze medals. He’s also a world champion with golds, a silver and a bronze.
“The hardest time for me was coming into Marrowstone Bridge. I was starting to feel pretty tired,” Barton confessed. “Early on, we worked hard battling the double-skull teams way too close. We expended a lot of energy for a couple hours. We were feeling strong. But by the time we got to Marrowstone Bridge, I began to feel the effects of the effort we were putting in.”
He complimented his partner, Olney.
“The good thing about a really good doubles partner is somebody you don’t feel,” he said. “Kevin would match my power.
“As we came into Marrowstone Bridge, I was beginning to feel pretty bad, actually. All of sudden Kevin is a half a stroke ahead of me. Wow, Kevin must be feeling a lot better than me, I thought.”
Barton said Olney helped him find the pace again as they were within sight of the Port Townsend City Dock.
The team averaged 7 mph, with a winning time of 9 hours and 39 minutes. Second place was awarded to 6 by 600, a Seattle team in an outrigger canoe that finished 19 minutes later. Third place went to Way Too Close, a monohull team. The first all-female team, Go Mamas Go!!, finished fourth. The first paddleboarder, Karl Kruger, finished 16th.
Before presenting the winning check, race organizers provided them a tax form to fill out to the delight of the crowd.
Evans said the event went smoothly despite the fact that six competitors left the race with “weary bodies, back and shoulder issues, a broken oar and one person was hypothermic.”
He said next year they may consider beginning the race a few hours later so more people can greet the racers when they finish the event.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]