PORT TOWNSEND — Soon after sunrise Saturday, a Brazilian and a Bainbridge Islander proved what can happen in the name of imua.
That Hawaiian word means moving forward with strong spirit. That’s what Greg Spooner and Thiago Silva did to win the Seventy48, a race from Tacoma to Port Townsend on human power only.
Team Imua — Silva, from Rio de Janeiro, and Spooner, from Bainbridge — set out in their rowboat from Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway at 7 p.m. Friday. It was to be the hardest work you could possibly do while sitting down and going backwards, quipped Spooner.
The competitors in this race, put on by the nonprofit Northwest Maritime Center in downtown Port Townsend, have 48 hours to travel 70 miles across Puget Sound.
The rules are: no motors, no support crews, no sails. So 109 teams paddled, rowed and pedaled through dusk, darkness and dawn.
Those last 2 miles with Port Townsend in sight feel the longest by far, Spooner added.
He and Silva reached the city dock finish line at 5:49 a.m. Saturday.
Standing on shore, they wore smiles as bright as the sun.
This was their first time rowing a race together; both have raced separately across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as professional rowers.
This jaunt was harder, Spooner said. On a multi-day row, you can nap. The Seventy48 has no time for such things.
He and Silva instead rowed like the wind while continually checking in with each other: “Are you warm enough? How’s your body? How’s your energy?”
Spooner, 39, and Silva, 32, won $5,450 in prize money in this second annual race. Silva now lives in San Francisco. Both had to get back home, so they couldn’t stay for today’s Ruckus, the pre-party for the Race to Alaska, another human-powered boat event launching its teams from Port Townsend at 5 a.m. Monday.
Ken Deem of Tacoma was the first solo racer to reach the Seventy48 finish line. Under the name Wave Forager, he rowed in two minutes before 6 a.m. Standing barefoot on the wooden dock — reconnecting to land after nearly 11 hours in his scull — he wore a blanket like a scarf around his shoulders.
“Even though you’re solo, you’re sharing it,” Deem, 42, said as daughters Penelope, 6, and Lucy, 4, scampered nearby. Later Deem and his wife Alison carried his craft, a Maas 24, past the maritime center to the car.
The Seventy48 is a course in unpredictable, said Kelly Johnson of Seattle, the fastest woman in this year’s race. She and rowing partner Ivan Medvedev, aka Team MAAS Aventura, came in fourth place over all, finishing their race in 12 hours 49 minutes.
Around the north end of Bainbridge Island they faced “a fog monster,” Johnson said. But “just when you think it’s going to stay bad, it changes,” and you can keep going.
When the sun rose shortly after 5 a.m., it was “completely re-energizing,” she added.
Johnson, 48, has advice for people who want to start racing.
“Find a club that fits you. And go start rowing. There are so many amazing races in the Seattle area — and all over. Do some of the short ones first.”
The Seventy48’s teams and results are found at https://seventy48.com/, while the race’s Facebook and Instagram pages also have photos and data.
The race closes today at 7 p.m. — which is during the Ruckus. The Race to Alaska prelude event, at Pope Marine Park beside the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St., is free to the public.
Festivities today from noon to 8 p.m. will include Seventy48 awards, food and drink for sale and, starting at 5 p.m., live music will come from Uncle Funk and the Dope Six.
For much more about the Ruckus and race, see https://r2ak.com/.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.