PORT TOWNSEND — Several racers in the Race to Alaska had made it north of Bella Bella as of Sunday afternoon as Team Pear Shaped Racing and Team Angry Beaver fought for the lead.
It wasn’t clear which team was leading the annual 750-mile race — due to Pear Shaped Racing’s tracker working only intermittently — but it was close, said Race Boss Daniel Evans.
Evans, speaking from a boat in the Johnstone Strait, said the last time he checked with Angry Beaver, the team was only a mile behind Pear Shaped Racing.
“I don’t know who’s winning that drag race at the moment,” he said. “It’s close, but I would think Pear Shaped Racing is holding on to the lead.”
Evans said there could be a winner as early as this morning, though that depends on the weather. He said teams will be looking to take advantage of rare southerly winds that will push them closer to Alaska.
“It depends how they catch this weather,” Evans said. “Tomorrow morning is the earliest. I don’t see the record being beaten; that’s coming this evening.”
The Race to Alaska website describes these finals days as “maybe the fastest run through R2AK’s back nine that this race has ever seen.”
Those competing in the race, which prohibits the use of motors, left Port Townsend on Monday and Victoria on Thursday.
This is the fifth annual Race to Alaska, sponsored by the Northwest Maritime Center of Port Townsend. Several boats — especially those that were human-powered — dropped out during the first leg of the race from Port Townsend to Victoria because of steady winds.
On the way to Alaska, racers have to go through two waypoints: one at Seymour Narrows, B.C., and another at Bella Bella, B.C. Other than that, there is no official route.
AlphaWolf dropped out because of family issues, leaving 35 boats still in the contest. No other boats have dropped out yet, Evans said.
The tracker, which as of Sunday afternoon hadn’t had any recent updates from Pear Shaped Racing or Angry Beaver, showed Team Sail Like A Girl leading the pack more than half way through the race.
Sail Like A Girl, the Bainbridge Island-based team that won last year’s race, had been “gaining ground on everyone,” Evans said.
He said Sail Like A Girl had edged ahead of Team Educated Guess during a drag race as they made their way toward the top three.
“They are catching up slowly and surely,” Evans said. “I think it’s going to be a good team to watch coming into these final days.”
Sail Like A Girl posted on Facebook charts showing 50-knot winds ahead in the Hecate Strait near Haida Gwaii.
“This is going to hurt,” the team wrote. “Heading into the mouth of a dragon.”
Team Givin’ the Horns, which was west of Bella Bella near Cypress Island at about 4 p.m., had broken its rudder near Bella Bella.
Ziska, a 116-year-old, 12-ton Lancashire Nobby from Port Townsend, had entered the Johnstone Strait on the north side of Vancouver Island by Sunday afternoon.
“It’s been great to see Ziska sailing better than most people thought she would,” Evans said. “Something that big is pretty hard to row around. She has performed really well.”
If Ziska finishes the race, Port Townsend High School sophomore Odin Smith will be the youngest competitor to do so.
Evans said Team Ziska: Sail Like A Luddite, was waiting for the right tide before moving closer to Ketchikan.
“They are being prudent, playing the game well,” he said. “That’s fun to watch.”
GPS trackers are located on every vessel, and their location can be viewed live at tracker.r2ak.com.
For more information on the teams and for results, visit r2ak.com or look for the Race to Alaska by Northwest Maritime Center on Facebook.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.