Second place arrives, third place sets record in Race to Alaska

Third place team set race’s all-time solo record

KETCHIKAN, ALASKA — A second team in the 2023 Race to Alaska arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska late Thursday evening, securing for Team Budgie Smugglers a set of engraved steak knives, the last prize to be awarded in the race.

The five-member catamaran team arrived in Ketchikan just after 11 p.m. Thursday — sunset is 10 p.m. at this time of year in southern Alaska — with a race time of seven days, 10 hours and 11 minutes.

The team had been in second place for several days after the previous second-place leader — team Dogsmile Adventures — pulled out of the race on Tuesday.

Only the first two teams to finish the Race to Alaska receive any kind of material prize. The first-place team wins $10,000 in cash; second place a set of knives.

It was a close race for third place Friday with three teams arriving in quick succession. The third-place spot, or what Race Boss Jesse Wiegel called “the first to win nothing,” was won by Team Pestou — the one-man team of Eric Pesty.

Pesty had been among the top five racers throughout much of the race, an impressive feat for someone racing against teams that can rotate command duties.

“Pestou seems like he doesn’t sleep,” Wiegel said.

Arriving at 10:45 a.m. PDT, Pesty’s time was seven days, 22 hours and 45 minutes, setting a new record for R2AK’s solo racers. The previous record was set in 2018 by Russell Brown of team PT Watercraft, Wiegel said, with a time of eight days, four hours and 16 minutes.

Just behind the Pestou’s trimaran were the monohull sailing teams Dacron and Denim and Unfinished Business, coming in fourth and fifth respectively.

Teams have been battling unfavorable weather — heavy winds blowing the opposite direction and choppy seas — conditions race organizers said favor the heavier, single-hulled boats.

But even as rain and clouds moved in over southeast Alaska, winds shifted and started blowing out of the southwest, pushing vessels in the right direction.

After hunkering down along the north side of Vancouver Island for several days, several human-powered boats started to push north Friday with a few of the teams clearing the island.

Solo-rower Wave Forager was leading the pack of human-powered vessels, followed by the one-person kayak team SeaSmoke and the race’s lone stand-up paddleboarder, SUP IN IRISH. Though Wave Forager was past Vancouver Island, Friday afternoon there were still more than 70 miles to the checkpoint in Bella Bella, British Columbia.

Racers have until July 1 to finish the race, though many teams never complete the full trip. Several teams were forced to pull out due to damage to hulls and rudders, sometimes caused by rogue driftwood.

Team We Brake for Whales won first place on Wednesday, with ship captain Jeanne Goussev becoming the race’s first two-time winner after previously winning the 2017 race with a different team.

Teams can be tracked in real time on the race’s website, R2AK.com, and many of the teams have social media pages where they post updates.

The race is organized by Port Townsend’s Northwest Maritime Center, and the handle @RacetoAlaska can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Videos can be found at the center’s YouTube page.

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

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