Team Roscoe Pickle Train of Port Townsend, which includes Chris Iruz, Enzo Dougherty, Odin Smith and Pearl Smith, were first out of the Victoria Inner Harbour at the start of the Race to Alaska on Tuesday. The cannon fired at noon and 38 racers headed to Ketchikan, a 750-mile contest that started in Port Townsend on Sunday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Team Roscoe Pickle Train of Port Townsend, which includes Chris Iruz, Enzo Dougherty, Odin Smith and Pearl Smith, were first out of the Victoria Inner Harbour at the start of the Race to Alaska on Tuesday. The cannon fired at noon and 38 racers headed to Ketchikan, a 750-mile contest that started in Port Townsend on Sunday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Racers restart in Victoria on their way to Alaska

One rescued by Coast Guard; two others try wheeling over land

VICTORIA — Thirty-two teams left Victoria Harbor at high noon Wednesday, bound for Ketchikan, Alaska, in a non-motorized boat race that offers $10,000 to the winning team.

High winds Sunday on the Strait of Juan de Fuca knocked several teams out of the Race to Alaska before they could reach Victoria from the start in Port Townsend, and several more were forced to make last-minute repairs once they reached British Columbia.

“That’ll happen up to the start and minutes after the start,” said Jesse Wiegel, race boss for Northwest Maritime, which hosts the race. “All the major repairs that we knew had to happen have happened.”

Racers have had to re-weld parts and replace pedal drives before the 710-mile trek, Wiegel said, but the weather is looking fairly mild in the coming days, and that is likely to make an easy start for the race’s sailboats and human-powered craft.

“Today it’s looking pretty light,” Wiegel said. “Human-powered might have a really good day of it.”

Currents will send some teams on unique routes up the coast of Vancouver Island, Wiegel said, but so far the weather is seeming to fall in racers’ favor.

It was the smaller teams that took the brunt of Sunday’s winds, according to Tuesday’s race update, which said several teams decided to wait overnight and try again Monday morning.

“None of them had more than 20 feet of length and, with the exception of Team Orca, all of them were solos,” the update said.

In a R2AK first, two solo teams — SUP N IRISH and Bowen Arrow — took their stand-up paddleboard and kayak out of the water, attached wheels and hauled their gear several miles to avoid the choppy waters of the strait.

“It’s the first time we’ve had someone try and portage over Whidbey Island,” Wiegel said. “Far and away the most creative route to Victoria we’ve seen.”

Portaging — carrying a watercraft over land — is allowed so long as racers do not use motors to move their vessels, Wiegel said. The main rules of the race are vessels must be human-powered and help along the way can’t be pre-arranged.

The portaging was a valiant effort that earned SUP N IRISH and Bowen Arrow the admiration of fellow racers, but it wasn’t enough to help the two teams reach Victoria in time.

“While they avoided the worst of the weather, they added tens of miles to their trip and eventually were too far to get anywhere near the Victoria finish line,” the update said. “When the 5 p.m. curtain closed on Stage One’s second day, the two of them had paddled over 65 miles to never get closer than 25 miles of the finish line. They started 32 miles from Victoria.”

Another team, Occam’s Laser, was capsized and had to be towed by the Canadian Coast Guard.

“A mariner, third-generation Victoria sailor and member of the Canadian Navy, he crawled onto the upside-down hull, called for a rescue, and was delivered to the finish with a broken boat but unbroken spirits,” the update said.

Once racers leave Victoria, only two waypoints — Seymour Narrows off Vancouver Island and Bella Bella on Campbell Island — stand between them and Ketchikan. The first to arrive is awarded $10,000. The second place team wins a set of steak knives.

Those are the only two official prizes awarded by Northwest Maritime, but private groups are offering their own prizes to different winners. The sailboat team Oracle is offering $1,000 in Canadian dollars — entirely in $1 “loonie” coins — to the first human-powered team to arrive in what they’re calling a “blister prize.”

Last year, the winning team reached Ketchikan in just less than six days, and the last teams to arrive — both solo kayakers — took 19 days.

This is the last year the Race to Alaska will be held annually, as next year Northwest Maritime will move to a biennial schedule, alternating R2AK with the Puget Sound-based WA360 race.

More information about the race is available at r2ak.com, including a live race tracker following each of the teams.

________

Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsuldailynews.com.

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