PORT TOWNSEND — When movie director Zach Carver set out to boil down a 750-mile race across the ocean, he became like the people in his film: He had to call on all of his resources.
“Finding a narrative structure that made it a cinematic journey — as opposed to a catalog” was the challenge, he said of making “The Race to Alaska,” the documentary available for online streaming throughout this week.
Carver did it: He made the 99-minute movie that won the Audience Choice award in the 2020 Port Townsend Film Festival.
This being the week that the Race to Alaska would have taken place were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival is presenting Carver’s film as its June PTFF Pic, with tickets at $10 per household.
Viewers who visit PTfilmfest.com can purchase those tickets after watching “The Race to Alaska’s” trailer, which may have places and faces they recognize.
The documentary was filmed over five years, with most footage from 2015 through 2018, plus a bit from the 2019 race.
It follows the competitors from Port Townsend to Vancouver Island to Ketchikan, Alaska, through the magnificent and perilous Inside Passage.
It comes alongside the women, the men and the dolphins as they travel through rain, snow and adrenaline-drenched days and nights.
The Race to Alaska, R2AK as it’s known around here, is a motor-free, supportless trek sometimes called the Iditarod on saltwater.
As with each monthly PTFF Pic, festival Executive Director Janette Force interviews the filmmakers and posts that video alongside the movie itself. It’s included in the price of admission, and the interview, with Carver and producer Ian Morland, is a little longer than the usual 25 minutes.
“We were having too much fun,” Force said.
She noted that ticket proceeds support both the nonprofit Port Townsend Film Festival — set for Sept. 3 through Oct. 3 — and independent filmmakers such as Morland and Carver.
Once viewers buy a ticket, they have until Monday to watch “The Race to Alaska” and Force’s interview.
Races this weekend
Then there’s this weekend, when they can watch R2AK’s sibling races, the Seventy48 and the new WA360, unfold.
These Northwest Maritime Center events are trackable at all hours of the day and night — along with each of the solo and team participants — at NWMaritime.org.
First comes the Seventy48, a 70-mile, 48-hour race starting at 7 p.m. Friday in Tacoma and finishing by 7 p.m. Sunday at the Northwest Maritime Center dock, 431 Water St., by 7 p.m. Sunday.
Then the WA360, a 360-mile navigation around Puget Sound, launches at the maritime center at 6 a.m. Monday. Participants have two weeks to finish back at the dock in Port Townsend.
Both races are engine-free and human-powered, with boats of various sizes, from kayaks on up, in the water.
As the filmmakers of “The Race to Alaska” say, nobody finishes without a story to tell.
It’s not surprising, then, that Carver will be back to film the WA360 race come Monday. And if he can, he’ll return in June 2022 for the next R2AK.
“I love being part of it,” he said.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.