Port Townsend’s Russell Brown, in his Gougeon 32 catamaran, leads the fleet at the start of the Race to Alaska’s second leg Sunday in Victoria. At the stroke of noon, a bell was sounded and the sailors raced to their boats to row out of Victoria’s Inner Harbour to the breakwater where they could hoist sails to continue the 710 miles to Ketchikan, Alaska The race started in Port Townsend on Thursday at 5 a.m. Brown was also the quickest across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend’s Russell Brown, in his Gougeon 32 catamaran, leads the fleet at the start of the Race to Alaska’s second leg Sunday in Victoria. At the stroke of noon, a bell was sounded and the sailors raced to their boats to row out of Victoria’s Inner Harbour to the breakwater where they could hoist sails to continue the 710 miles to Ketchikan, Alaska The race started in Port Townsend on Thursday at 5 a.m. Brown was also the quickest across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Race to Alaska starts second leg with Port Townsend catamaran in lead

VICTORIA — The customized Gougeon 32 catamaran from Port Townsend that won the “proving ground” stage of the Race to Alaska held the lead during the start of the second leg of this year’s race Sunday.

“Russell Brown [of PT Watercraft] as a solo sailor is doing amazingly well,” said Race Boss Daniel Evans. “If he constantly sails well, he’s going to do very well.”

The Race to Alaska resumed at noon Sunday as watercraft of all shapes and sizes departed from Victoria on a 710-mile motorless journey to Ketchikan, Alaska.

Brown is doing the second leg of the race on his own, but on his way to Victoria he had some help from Ashlyn Brown and Alex Spear. Last year PT Watercraft set the record for the fastest solo finish.

They won the first stage of the race — from Port Townsend to Victoria — after arriving to Victoria at 9:10 a.m. Thursday.

Evans described PT Watercraft as a “very curious,” boat. It’s a long catamaran, but it isn’t very wide, he said.

“Someone called it a mutated cuttlefish,” he said. “It’s very fast. He’s flipping right along right now.”

Strait, nearshore

Teams Oracle and First Federal’s Sail Like a Girl were close behind in second and third place. PT Watercraft and First Federal’s Sail Like a Girl were both headed through the center of Haro Strait while Team Oracle kept to the nearshore waters.

The start the 710-mile leg went well, Evans said, adding that spectator boats left plenty of room for racers to get out of the harbor.

After running to their boats at the start of the race, racers followed the rules and avoided breaking any laws on their way out of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

Last year some racers set sail while still in Victoria’s Inner Harbour while attempting to get a faster start on the race. While not against the Race to Alaska’s rules, doing so is against the law, Evans said.

“It’s their rule, not mine, so I let them enforce it,” he said.

As teams rounded Ogden Point on their way into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, they passed a cruise ship that was backing into the harbor, Evans said.

“That could have been disastrous,” he said.

The two-leg, self-supported race began in Port Townsend amid a festive sendoff at 5 a.m. Thursday.

Thirty-six vessels arrived in Victoria’s Inner Harbour on Thursday. Three others — a monohull, kayak and rowboat — arrived Friday, race officials said.

Thirty-six teams were expected to attempt the second stage up the inside passage to Alaska, Race Boss Daniel Evans said Saturday.

Competitors were expecting a “suffer-fest” today because of the lack of favorable winds, Evans said.

Sunday afternoon he said winds had not yet picked up and he didn’t expect much within the next 24 hours. He said it appeared some racers were trying to make their way toward the Strait of Georgia in hopes of catching some winds.

He said the high-pressure system that’s currently in the area hasn’t really produced much wind.

“Depending where they are in the Strait, they could get a nice blow or they could be rowing in the slot,” he said. “It’s hard to plan.”

Last year, 27 of the 41 teams that entered the competition made it to Ketchikan.

Evans said the race becomes an adventure after Campbell River, the last hint of civilization — and cellphone service — for hundreds of miles.

The remote inside passage is known for its strong currents.

“There’s simply nothing out there for you but yourself,” Evans said.

“The decisions become very, very different when you know that there’s no bailout.”

The Race to Alaska winner collects a $10,000 prize. The second-place finisher receives a set of steak knives.

If the conditions are favorable, Evans predicted that the fastest teams would reach Ketchikan in about five days.

One competitor, Seattle cyclist Matt Johnson of Team Take Me to the Volcano, will attempt to reach Alaska using only pedal power, Evans said.

Johnson held second during the early afternoon Sunday before other teams caught up.

Volunteers will travel with the Race to Alaska in two boats. The event has an interactive website with links to the teams and their social media sites.

To track the competition, go to www.r2ak.com.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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