Race to Alaska competitors pass first checkpoint

Weather good, says race boss

Twelve Race to Alaska teams were through the Seymour Narrows by mid-afternoon Saturday, according to organizers of the annual race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska.

Team Angry Beaver and Givin’ the Horns were neck-and-neck by 3:30 p.m. Saturday, according to the leader board on the Race to Alaska website at r2ak.com.

They were closely followed by Team Sail Like a Girl, which won the 750-mile race in 2018, and Team Trickster.

Some boats had long waits to get through the narrow tidal gate midway up the inside of Vanisla, the first checkpoint on the second stage of the race, which is the 710 miles from Victoria, B.C. to Ketchikan.

Those competing in the race, which prohibits the use of motors, left Port Townsend on Monday and Victoria on Thursday.

Battling through

The earliest others have said they expect a boat to cross the Alaskan finish line is Monday, said Race Boss Daniel Evans late Saturday morning, speaking from the boat Ocean Watch as it headed north.

“Seymour Narrows is more or less the battleground where rising tides from the northern Queen Charlotte Sound collide with the waters of the Strait of Georgia,” according to the update on the Race to Alaska website at r2ak.com.

The website describes the Narrows as more than “100 miles of water in each direction pulled by the cosmic force, gravity of the sun and moon, and forced through a channel slightly less than 750 meters wide. … Seymour is a force to be reckoned with.”

It’s a gate that closes when the water flows the wrong way and that causes waits for boats in a hurry to get to the Ketchikan finish line.

This is the fifth annual Race to Alaska, sponsored by the Northwest Maritime Center of Port Townsend. Several boats — especially those that were human-powered — dropped out during the first leg of the race from Port Townsend to Victoria because of steady winds.

Since then any issues have been personal rather than weather-related, Evans said.

Weather cooperating

“The weather’s been great,” Evans said. “That first night coming out of Victoria, we encountered strong winds in the Strait of Georgia” but since then “it’s been pretty calm.”

AlphaWolf dropped out because of family issues, leaving 34 boats still in the contest.

The team aboard Ziska, a 116-year-old, 12-ton Lancashire Nobby that was recently restored, have done “remarkable well,” Evans said.

If Ziska finishes the race, Port Townsend High School sophomore Odin Smith will be the youngest competitor to do so.

“Ziska had a 180 wind change all of a sudden,” which caused confusion, Evans said.

Other teams are operating sleep-deprived because of conditions that would not allow them to anchor, Evans added.

GPS trackers are located on every vessel, and their location can be viewed live at tracker.r2ak.com. For more information on the teams and for results, visit r2ak.com or look for the Race to Alaska by Northwest Maritime Center on Facebook.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

Reporter Jesse Major contributed to this story.

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