Members of team We Brake for Whales celebrate their win in the 2023 Race to Alaska in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Wednesday. (Kelsey Brenner via the Northwest Maritime Center)

Members of team We Brake for Whales celebrate their win in the 2023 Race to Alaska in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Wednesday. (Kelsey Brenner via the Northwest Maritime Center)

We Brake for Whales wins Race to Alaska

Captain is event’s first two-time winner

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — The eight-person team of We Brake for Whales sailed into Ketchikan, Alaska, on Wednesday to win the 2023 Race to Alaska, which began in Port Townsend last week.

Arriving in Ketchikan at 8 a.m. PDT, We Brake for Whales is so far the only team to complete the race. This marks the second R2AK win for team captain Jeanne Goussev, who won the 2017 race with team Sail Like a Girl, making her the first two-time winner in the race’s history.

According to the race statistics, We Brake for Whales completed stage two of the race from Victoria, British Columbia, to Ketchikan in five days, 18 hours and 59 minutes.

An award ceremony was to be held in Ketchikan on Wednesday evening, said Jesse Wiegel, race boss for the race sponsored by the Northwest Maritime Center, as remaining teams make their way north.

Wiegel said several teams threw themselves an impromptu party at the checkpoint in Bella Bella, British Columbia.

“Everybody still in good spirits and healthy,” Wiegel said.

The current second-place team — the five-person catamaran team Budgie Smugglers — was still in Canadian waters late Wednesday afternoon with 146 miles to go. The next to make the finish line will be awarded a set of engraved steak knives, but that’s the last of the material rewards to be awarded in the race.

Twenty-eight teams remained in the race, and Wednesday most of them were still along the coast of Vancouver Island, waiting for better weather.

“It has been blowing quite a stink for a couple of days now,” Wiegel said, noting that many of the teams still along Vancouver Island were the smaller, human-powered boats.

“They can’t really make too big a push when the weather is stacked up like it is,” he said.

Strong winds were blowing from the northwest down the Johnstone Strait on the northern side of Vancouver Island, Wiegel said, and many teams were tucked into various safe harbors, waiting for a break in the weather.

Weather reports from the area show winds of 13-15 mph in the Johnstone Strait and 23-25 mph in the Queen Charlotte Sound east of Bella Bella.

Some teams were using the downtime to repair their boats while others were taking advantage of the local surroundings.

On Tuesday, race organizers wrote that one team — Madame Oracle and Prairie Porch Pirates — had gone ashore to go hiking, and another — team Ship of Fools — went back to the Bella Bella, British Columbia, checkpoint for more coffee creamer.

Team Dogsmile Adventures — which had been competing for second place through most of the race — announced Tuesday afternoon they had suffered bulkhead damage and were pulling out of the race. Five teams have pulled out of the race since teams left Victoria last Thursday.

Even though We Brake for Whales has finished, the race is not over, Wiegel said. Participants have until July 1 to get to Ketchikan.

“Continue checking out what all of the teams are about to do. It’s going to stay exciting for quite a while now,” Wiegel said.

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