A scene from the photo archives of the Northwest Maritime Center’s Race to Alaska looks deceptively serene. The 750-mile race of unmotorized watercraft from Port Townsend to Ketchikan is on again this year. (Courtesy photo by Spencer Weber)

A scene from the photo archives of the Northwest Maritime Center’s Race to Alaska looks deceptively serene. The 750-mile race of unmotorized watercraft from Port Townsend to Ketchikan is on again this year. (Courtesy photo by Spencer Weber)

Race to Alaska ready to sail

Contest resumes after two-year hiatus

PORT TOWNSEND — Race to Alaska is back for year six after a two-year COVID-induced hiatus.

No motors or support are allowed — the R2AK is about the physical endurance, saltwater know-how, and bulldog tenacity that it takes to navigate the 750 cold water miles from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska, said Race Boss Daniel Evans.

“As these teams sail into the forgotten reaches of our coastal wilderness, the stories that do come out will be incredible,” Evans said in a press release.

First place wins $10,000; second place, a set of mediocre steak knives.

The rest get braggin’ rights.

Teams will embark on Stage 1, “The Proving Ground,” from Port Townsend at 5 a.m. June 13. They will have 48 hours to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca and make it to Victoria.

June 16 at high noon will mark the start of Stage 2, “To the Bitter End,” the 710-mile trek from Victoria to Alaska.

Thirty-eight teams are signed up to go all the way to Ketchikan while 11 are set to sail only the first lap to Victoria.

Among the boats registered is a team of four youth — 16.75 average age — called Mustang Survival’s Rite of Passage are sailing a veteran Santa Cruz 27, a monohull sailboat designed by Bill Lee and built by Santa Cruz Yachts starting in 1974, Evans said.

Human-powered teams in kayaks and rowboats will be jockeying for position with go-fast boats, solo racers, and even those attempting to drag their engineless houseboats up the Inside Passage.

“Most just hope to finish, and the journey is what is celebrated,” Evans said.

This year, the removal of one of only two waypoints between Victoria and Ketchikan, Seymour Narrows, gives racers the choice of traveling up the inside of Vancouver Island or going out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca into the Pacific Ocean—opening up a new realm of possibilities as teams endeavor to solve the R2AK puzzle.

Twelve teams have registered to have the option of taking the open-ocean route, Evans said Friday.

They have to register in advance so that their safety gear can be checked out but they don’thave to actually decide on their route unit they leave Victoria Harbour, Evans said.

The public is invited to come to the Northwest Maritime Center on June 12 to meet the teams and celebrate their impending adventure at the Ruckus — a free block party — and again for the race start at 5 a.m. on June 13 to cheer on the teams and they embark on Stage 1.

At the Ruckus at 7 p.m., will be an awards ceremony honoring the winners of the SEVENTY48, a 70-mile race that must be accomplished in 48 hours from Tacoma to Port Townsend. The race , which will begin June 10.

Follow the teams’ progress on the Northwest Maritime Center’s 24-hour tracker, social media streams, and daily content from field reporters.

The Race to Alaska and SEVENTY48 are projects of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend. It is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization “whose mission is to engage and educate people of all generations in traditional and contemporary maritime life, in a spirit of adventure and discovery.”

For more information, see R2AK.com or check Facebook or Instagram @racetoalaska.

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