Victoria-based Team Malolo was poised to win the 2024 Race to Alaska on Monday. At midday, the team was 20 miles out from the finish line in Ketchikan, Alaska, while the second-place team was still about 70 miles behind. (Taylor Bayly/Northwest Maritime)

Victoria-based Team Malolo was poised to win the 2024 Race to Alaska on Monday. At midday, the team was 20 miles out from the finish line in Ketchikan, Alaska, while the second-place team was still about 70 miles behind. (Taylor Bayly/Northwest Maritime)

Team Malolo poised to win Race to Alaska

Trimaran had 70-mile lead over competitors

KETCHIKAN — The trimaran team Malolo was in position to win the Race to Alaska on Monday, 7o miles ahead of the second-place team and the rest of the fleet.

At midday, Malolo was about 20 miles out of Ketchikan, Alaska, while the rest of the fleet was still in Canadian waters.

As Malolo was sailing past the Alaskan community of Metlakatla, the second- and third-place teams, Brio and Hullabaloo, were still closer to the town of Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia.

There is a $10,000 prize for the first-place team, a set of steak knives to the second and a sense of accomplishment to all the rest.

“It’s sacred to not call the race until it’s over,” said Jesse Wiegel, race boss for Northwest Maritime, which hosts the race. “Once the first team comes in, it’s going to be a hot race for the steak knives.”

The race’s two checkpoints take teams along the inside passage the Canadian mainland and its western islands, but eventually the course heads out into the open Hecate Strait, where winds are fierce, even when they’re not.

That’s where Malolo really took off. The team had a healthy lead for most of the race, but once it hit the open ocean, the distance between the rest of the pack grew fairly quickly.

After a windy start that knocked several teams out of the race, this year has been somewhat lacking on wind power, a surprise for a race known for navigating some very breezy bodies of water.

“Seriously, though, it’s like the wind was cut off because we forgot to pay the bill,” Sunday’s race update quipped. “With a normal year’s wind, R2AK goes through places so terrifying that they are the scary bedtime stories for the monsters that live under your bed.”

The lack of wind is putting pressure on sailing teams’ human-powered devices. One of the main rules of R2AK is no motor power, so many of the sailing vessels in this year’s race have replaced their outboard engines with pedal or other human-powered propulsion systems.

Parts of several teams’ pedal systems have broken and, following another of R2AK’s cardinal rules — no pre-arranged help along the way — those teams are trying to find ways to make repairs while navigating British Columbia’s northern coast.

Wiegel said there’s usually a lot of pedalling that goes on, and teams have learned they need to bring extra parts along to replace worn out or broken equipment.

Thirty-one teams remained in the race, and on Monday, many of them were still pushing up the northwestern side of Vancouver Island while others were just pulling into the race’s second checkpoint at Bella Bella.

Only one team dropped out of the race over the weekend, the one-man, pedal-powered team Barely Heumann. Wiegel said racer Jim Heumann had stopped at an offshore pub in Nanaimo on Saturday and called early Sunday to drop out of the race and head back south, presumably back to the pub.

Heumann’s departure left two other human-powered teams in the race, the four-person, pedal-powered team Boogie Barge was 21st Monday, and the one-man kayak team Lets Wing It was in last place.

________

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

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