Team Vantucky on their way to Ketchikan, Alaska, in the 2016 Race to Alaska. (Tom Weiner/Race to Alaska)

Team Vantucky on their way to Ketchikan, Alaska, in the 2016 Race to Alaska. (Tom Weiner/Race to Alaska)

Race to Alaska from Port Townsend planned for 2017

Expect at least one change to be announced during the Blazer Party on Sept. 9, race officials say.

PORT TOWNSEND — The race is on.

The Northwest Maritime Center will host the third annual Race to Alaska next summer, it announced Friday.

Details won’t be released until the Blazer Party on Sept. 9 during the 40th annual Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend. Tickets are on sale now for the party.

Next year’s race won’t be entirely the same as the 750-mile race that began in Port Townsend on June 23 and ended July 21 when the last boat crossed the finish line in Ketchikan, Alaska.

“People should expect at least one change” in the rules for the 2017 race, said Jake Beattie, the executive director of the maritime center and the founder of Race to Alaska, in a news release.

While many fans had speculated that the race’s annual return was a given, Beattie said organizers are committing to only one year at a time.

“We took a few weeks to make sure that the race was still living up to the reasons we started it,” Beattie said.

He said this summer’s race had “world-class seamanship, incredible adventures and racers stayed safe.”

Other than that bear attack, that is.

On Day 15 of the race, the R2AK blog at reported that Team Wabi Sabi members cut short a pit stop on a beach and launched their boat in hurry when a bear charged them.

No one was hurt. It wasn’t known whether the bear was the reason the team dropped out of the race.

Overall, however, there were relatively few safety incidents, Beattie said, and organizers decided to do the race again in 2017.

At present time, the rules to the race are simple: Get a boat without an engine and race the 750 miles to Alaska unsupported.

The race has two stages: a qualifying leg from Port Townsend to Victoria and the main race from Victoria to Ketchikan.

Winners get $10,000, while second place gets a set of steak knives.

The winner of the second Race to Alaska was Mad Dog Racing, which pulled into the harbor with a final time of 3 days, 20 hours, 13 minutes.

That bested last year’s winner, Team Elsie Piddock, which completed the inaugural race in five days.

The last boat in was Team Can’t Anchor Us, the 26th winner, according to the R2AK blog.

Canadian Tim Penhallow was the sole competitor aboard Team Can’t Anchor Us.

It was his second finish in the race, the first by himself.

“I’ve discovered that solo sailing is not for me,” Penhallow was quoted as saying in the blog after he mostly rowed to Alaska, dressed in little more than a sun hat, shoes and zinc oxide on his nose, the blog said.

He has piled up the honors, however. Not only did he come in last, “he has the distinct honor of being the most prolific soul of the R2AK — he has more elapsed time in the race than anyone, ever,” according to the blog.

Details of the 2017 race will be announced during the Blazer Party from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 9 on the second floor of the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St.

Tickets to the combination reunion, awards ceremony and 2017 kickoff beer bash are $30, although discounts are available to racers, maritime center members and charter members of the newly minted R2AK Yacht Club.

To purchase tickets, go to and find “Blazer Party” under “News.”

The party is named for the thrift store blazers that will be issued to racers.

Racers who completed both stages of the race get blazers with both sleeves. Volunteers with scissors will stand by to remove a sleeve for every stage left incomplete.

“We literally cut sleeves off their blazers as they show up,” said R2AK spokesman Jared Scott.

Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with priority for maritime members and charter members of the R2AK Yacht Club, a virtual organization unveiled Friday.

The R2AK Yacht Club is for anyone who doesn’t own a yacht, who is “comfortable with the size of your prestige” and who won’t pay more than $10 to belong to anything, according to the website.

As for that change in the race, which will be announced at the Blazer Party, it’s “in the hope to maintain the simplicity while honoring the original idea to create an event that encouraged people to get on the water to find adventure in whatever craft they chose,” according to the news release.

“Keeping the simplicity of the race is really important,” Beattie said.

“It turns out simple things are actually harder. Plus, we’re not really big on rules.”

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