PORT ANGELES — Imagine a forest of old growth trees, underbrush and baseball bat-sized chunks of timber floating on the water. Now imagine you’re in boat trying to navigate through it.
After a wind-tossed start to the first stage of the Race to Alaska that knocked out four teams, wood in the Georgia Strait ended the hopes of three more on Friday. Another boat capsized Friday.
On Sunday, one lost a mast and another just decided that it was time to bow out.
That’s six fewer teams competing in the Race to Alaska’s second stage, a 710-mile stretch from Victoria, B.C., to Ketchikan, Alaska.
Team Pure & Wild of Seattle leads the remaining 26 teams and, as of Sunday, was more than 100 miles in front of its nearest competitor, Team Elsewhere of Friday Harbor.
The first team to exit during stage two, Team Pocket Rockanauts, capsized Friday around 6 a.m., and the three-man crew was rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard.
That same day, a collision with floating debris ended Team Pturodactyl’s race when its trimaran was damaged after hitting a log. Then Eric Pesty, the solo member of Team Pestou, reported his trimaran had run into five logs.
The four-man Team Malolo was in the lead heading up the Georgia Strait in their catamaran when they, too, called it quits after hitting a log.
All of the teams reported the damage to their boats was too extensive to repair in the field, and they decided to pull out of the race, said race marshal Jesse Wiegel.
“I have never seen this many logs in any body of water,” Wiegel said. “There have been record tides picking up logs on the beach, and there’s just a tremendous amount of wood.”
It wasn’t wood but a snapped main mast at around 10 p.m. Saturday that forced Team Shear Water Madness to quit the following morning after they assessed the damage.
Team Stern Wheelin out of Chilliwack, B.C., a 26-foot sailboat with a paddle wheel driven by bike pedals, also decided to leave the race Sunday.
Team High Seas Drifters didn’t lose their boat, but they did lose their captain, Shad Lemke, when he was diagnosed with pneumonia and dropped off at Port McNeill, B.C. The team, Wiegel said, is carrying on without him.
The farther teams travel north of Campbell River, the more challenging the route becomes, Weigel said.
“Very limited cell phone coverage, no land services and few places for a boat to come in for repairs,” Weigel said.
The Race to Alaska prohibits motors and any kind of support. The first team to reach Ketchikan wins $10,000 and the second-place team wins a set of steak knives.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at [email protected]om.