The cannon blast at noon on Thursday signaled the start of the 710 -mile leg of the 2023 Race2Alaska from Victoria’s Inner Harbour to Ketchikan, Alaska. Thirty-one boats, using sails, paddles or oars, left did a Le Mans type start from Government Street above the Harbour to their boats before the start of the race which got going in Port Townsend on Monday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

The cannon blast at noon on Thursday signaled the start of the 710 -mile leg of the 2023 Race2Alaska from Victoria’s Inner Harbour to Ketchikan, Alaska. Thirty-one boats, using sails, paddles or oars, left did a Le Mans type start from Government Street above the Harbour to their boats before the start of the race which got going in Port Townsend on Monday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Race to Alaska leaves Victoria

Journey to Ketchikan, Alaska begins

VICTORIA — Under sunny skies and mild winds, Phase 2 of the Race to Alaska began at noon Thursday with dozens of race teams leaving Victoria Harbour and heading for Ketchikan, Alaska.

“Everything went great. It’s sunny and windy,” said Molly McCarthy, communications director for the Northwest Maritime Center, which organizes the race.

“It was a great send-off, and everybody who wanted to get off did get off,” McCarthy said.

The first team to reach Ketchikan will receive at $10,000 cash prize. The second place team will get a set of engraved steak knives.

Many racers aren’t competing for the money but for the sake of the race itself, organizers said.

“There were a lot of great last-minute fixes and tune-ups this morning, and a surprising number of men in speedos,” McCarthy said.

Racers have until July 1 to reach Ketchikan, and McCarthy said Thursday that one racer, Lillian Kuehl of team Lillian’ Vacation, opted to attend a wedding and plans to leave in the next couple of days.

The race officially began at 5 a.m. Monday, when teams left Port Townsend, but the 40-mile first phase of the race isn’t timed, and teams have been waiting in Victoria since Tuesday.

The only stop for teams on the remaining part of the 750-mile route to Ketchikan is a brief check-in Bella Bella, British Columbia, a small community on Campbell Island off the Canadian coast.

Most of the vessels leaving Victoria are sailing boats, but there are a few rowboats, kayakers and even one stand-up paddleboarder.

Conditions Thursday were breezy which will give an advantage to the sailing vessels, according to Katie Oman, chief operating officer with the Northwest Maritime Center.

“There’s some pretty brisk south easterlies, and they’ll be building through the afternoon,” Oman said.

Some of the larger vessels are approved to navigate on the outside of Vancouver Island, Oman said, where conditions will be different.

Weather reports from Victoria showed winds of 8 mph blowing from the southeast with partly cloudy skies at 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Late Thursday afternoon, team Dogsmile Adventures was listed as in first place but the online race tracker showed teams Pestou and Ruf Duck slightly farther north. All three are sailing trimarans.

Many of the vessels had re-entered U.S. waters and were navigating through the San Juan Islands while others remained closer to Vancouver Island.

The only rules for the race are no engines and no pre-arranged help along the way.

Teams can be tracked in real-time via the race’s website, R2AK.com, and many of the teams have their own social media accounts where they post regular updates.

Race organizers have their own social media accounts, and the handle @RacetoAlaska can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and videos can be found at the Northwest Maritime Center’s YouTube page.

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

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