PORT TOWNSEND — The 750-mile Race To Alaska is expected to crown a victor this morning, one week after the event began its second leg from Victoria, B.C., on June 17.
According to the race tracker, two leading teams were in close competition as the finish neared: First Federal’s Team Sail Like A Girl was being closely followed by Team Lagopus on Saturday night.
Race organizers believe it will be a very close finish in Ketchikan.
“This is actually a race,” said Jake Beattie, executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center, which organizes the event.
“It’s the slowest-moving charge toward the finish in four years.”
Beattie said the weather has played a pivotal role, giving racers nearly no wind at all, extreme wind in spurts, fog and calm.
Early leaders out of Victoria were those who used paddles or foot power. Others had to figure it out and use their experience or guts to make it through the challenges thrown their way.
First Federal’s Team Sail Like A Girl has been chased relentlessly by Team Lagopus since the checkpoint at Bella Bella, and they sometimes have been within five miles and in sight of each other.
Team Wild Card in third place and Team Ptarmigan in fourth continued to make good time and were within 100 miles of the leaders Saturday.
In addition to all the participants being top-notch mariners, Beattie said there is a 50/50 gender split among the top four boats.
“This is bizarre for the sport,” he said. “We feel if we can get 40 percent participation from women, that would be great. We couldn’t think of a better manifestation and a better year for this to happen.”
Team Sail Like A Girl has eight women onboard. Teams Lagopus and Wild Card have four men each. Team Ptarmigan has a two men/two women split: father, daughter and two family friends.
This year marks the first time a monohull boat has a chance of winning the race.
Several teams have left the race or didn’t start due to injury or the boat not being ready for conditions.
Team Mknotkrazee concluded that the boat they chose to race, one they bought last year during the R2AK Buyback Program, wasn’t the ride they expected and they dropped out.
Team Reliance, two women from Wisconsin, decided their Balboa 20 was not ready for the heavy weather they encountered.
Team B4B2, representing Australia and Alaska, discovered the source of their water leak and decided it would take too long to repair. They said they’d be back next year.
Team Perseverance from Sedro Wooley said his Hobie wasn’t the right boat for conditions and said he’ll be back next year.
Team Take Me To The Volcano from Seattle was using pedal power and an unfortunate tendon injury behind the knee of the pro cyclist took him out of the race.
Team Extreme Sobriety, Steve Rhodes of Bainbridge Island, planned to compete prone on his paddleboard. Unfortunately, a hip and shoulder injury just before the race made him unable to participate. At the start line he arm-paddled out on his board a few hundred yards and said goodbye to his plans.
Two teams have a cult following on social media.
Operation Team Torrent, a custom standup paddleboard navigated by Josh Collins of Florida, is steadily making progress.
Beattie said he’s neck-and-neck with Karl Kruger’s record pace for a paddleboard finish in the race. Collins is a special forces vet who suffered traumatic brain injuries. He’s paddling to help reduce veteran suicides and bring awareness to PTSD.
Team Dock Rat left Victoria and drifted 56 nautical miles in the wrong direction, the first team to show negative progress on the race tracker. He’s back on course now. The Haida 26 sailing sloop is Jim Edmark’s liveaboard home and he’s taken the motor out and shipped it to Ketchikan to lighten the load. He’s using a dinghy to push and pull the vessel when the wind isn’t favorable and expects to be in Ketchikan by July 10.
Beattie said over 10,000 people per day are reading the R2AK website and viewing the tracker.
For more information, see www.r2ak.com.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].