And they’re off to the Proving Ground

Race to Alaska boats to leave Victoria on Thursday

Racers in the Race to Alaska pass by the cheers and well wishes from the hundreds of spectators lining the docks at the Northwest Maritime Center when the cannon went off at 5 a.m. Monday, starting the 750-mile journey from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Racers in the Race to Alaska pass by the cheers and well wishes from the hundreds of spectators lining the docks at the Northwest Maritime Center when the cannon went off at 5 a.m. Monday, starting the 750-mile journey from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

PORT TOWNSEND — The 2023 Race to Alaska began Monday in Port Townsend, with racers leaving at 5 a.m. for the first leg of the journey, which will take them to Victoria, British Columbia.

The first phase of the race isn’t timed and teams have 36 hours to make the 40-mile trip. By 4 p.m. Monday, more than 20 boats had already made it across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, according to the race’s live tracker, which shows the real-time status of all the teams.

“The race is going great,” said Jesse Wigel, Race Boss of the event and employee of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, which organizers the race.

“We got underway this morning with a cannon blast and the Ukrainian national anthem,” Wigel said, speaking from a powered boat in the strait.

“The conditions are stunning, beautiful,” Wigel said. “Winds are 10-15 knots and diminishing. It’s kind of perfect for a lot of the sailing teams.”

Most of the 39 teams in this year’s race are some kind of sailing vessel, but there are several kayakers, a paddleboarder and a wing foil boarder.

The wing foil boarder — a wind-powered board similar to kitesurfing — had not left the Quimper Peninsula by noon, Wigel said, waiting for better conditions.

One of the kayakers first paddled to the end of the Dungeness spit and was resting before making the journey across the strait.

The second phase of the race won’t leave Victoria until Thursday, and though conditions locally were looking good, Wigel said it was too soon to tell what the weather would be like for the push north.

In first place so far was team Dogsmile Adventures, a 27-foot trimaran sailing boat captained by Gabe Mills.

Many of the racers will not complete the 750-mile journey all the way to Ketchikan, but organizers say winning is a small part of the race’s appeal. The winner will walk away with a $10,000 cash prize, second place with a set of engraved steak knives, but for many of the contestants, it’s the adventure that makes the race worth doing.

Live updates on each race team can be found at the race website; R2AK.com, and the organizers have several social media pages where updates are regularly posted. The handle @RacetoAlaska can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and videos can be found at the Northwest Maritime Center’s YouTube page.

Several of the race teams have their own social media accounts, which can be found on the race’s live tracker page.

________

Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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