Ernie Baird of Marrowstone Island, Martin Musser of Port Hadlock and John Calogero of San Juan Island work to prepare Baird’s 26-foot-long Crotch Island pinky, the Grace B, for today’s restart of the Race to Alaska, which started in Port Townsend on Thursday morning. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Ernie Baird of Marrowstone Island, Martin Musser of Port Hadlock and John Calogero of San Juan Island work to prepare Baird’s 26-foot-long Crotch Island pinky, the Grace B, for today’s restart of the Race to Alaska, which started in Port Townsend on Thursday morning. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Biggest leg of Race to Alaska begins from Victoria at high noon today

VICTORIA — At high noon today, sailors, paddleboarders and boaters will embark on one of the most difficult water races in the world.

In total, 35 teams will race 710 cold-water miles from Victoria to Ketchikan, Alaska, without motors or any outside support in an attempt to earn the Race to Alaska’s $10,000 grand prize.

The second-place team gets a set of steak knives.

The race, hosted by the Northwest Maritime Center and sponsored by UnCruise Adventures, has two legs: the “proving ground” — the 40 miles from Port Townsend to Victoria, which began Thursday — and the second stage, “to the bitter end,” which begins today. Forty-one boats originally signed up for the longer leg.

“These are some of the most complex motorways in the world,” said Daniel Evans, race boss. “We try to take away the things that we as a modern society have come to rely through something and strip it down to the self. I can’t think of one harder.”

All the teams have to row out of Victoria, which is a challenge for some, he said.

Then — if there is wind — it should be clear which teams will have a shot at the $10,000 and steak knives, Evans said.

“We’ve seen the leaders clearly define themselves in the first day,” Evans said, adding it’ll be clear which racers are taking the inland waters or going out into the “big water.”

“Those are decisions that have defined who is getting the $10,000 and the steak knives.”

Most teams are wind-powered, but a handful of human-powered teams are continuing in the second leg of the race: three paddleboards, a kayak and a canoe.

Evans said the canoer, Rod Price, has done well in any waterway challenge he has competed in across North America.

The paddleboarders are some of the best in the country, Evans said, adding that they all joined this race looking for a more challenging adventure.

“It’s why the race is here,” he said.

Many of the teams won’t make it to Alaska. In the past two years, only 58 percent of teams have actually crossed the finish line.

The 710-mile trek comes after the 40-mile “proving ground” race from Port Townsend to Victoria.

Teams that made it to Victoria within 36 hours qualified for the second leg of the race.

Most teams did make it to Victoria.

Evans said 51 of the teams that left the Northwest Maritime Center and Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend on Thursday made it to Victoria; only six teams didn’t make it.

One thing that made this race stand out was that human-powered vessels were the clear winners in the first leg.

Team Liteboat traveled at “breakneck” speed to make it to Victoria by 11:30 a.m. Thursday. The race started at 5 a.m.

“That’s pretty darn quick,” Evans said. “That was a real highlight. We haven’t seen anything like that.”

The weather was in their favor until about 1:30 p.m. Thursday. That’s when strong winds began, with gusts up to 50 knots.

The last team arrived in Victoria at about 3:30 Friday.

Evans said he saw more planning regarding the weather than he had seen in the previous two years.

“A really great thing that happened that we haven’t seen a lot of is people looked at the weather pattern and made smart decisions about their vessels,” he said.

Some realized they couldn’t make it to Victoria before the wind hit and found spots to camp.

“There was some strategy we saw this year that we hadn’t seen before,” Evans said.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

Henry Veitenhans works in the bow and crewman River Yearian serves a bite of muffin to crew member Sean Westlund, who had just woken up from a nap, while enjoying a lay-over in Victoria before the Sunday restart of the Race to Alaska. Friend Camilla Goetz watches from the side. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Henry Veitenhans works in the bow and crewman River Yearian serves a bite of muffin to crew member Sean Westlund, who had just woken up from a nap, while enjoying a lay-over in Victoria before the Sunday restart of the Race to Alaska. Friend Camilla Goetz watches from the side. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

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