Rower Ken Deem of Tacoma, who placed second in the Seventy48 race last weekend, took a picture just before he started the WA360 in Port Townsend Bay on Monday morning. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Rower Ken Deem of Tacoma, who placed second in the Seventy48 race last weekend, took a picture just before he started the WA360 in Port Townsend Bay on Monday morning. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Weather conditions challenge racers

Half the field finishes weekend’s Seventy48

PORT TOWNSEND — This year’s Seventy48 was a mean one weather wise, but it had many shining moments, race boss Daniel Evans said Monday.

“Because it had the heaviest weather ever experienced, the success percentage was dramatically lower,” he said.

But there are many ways to define success.

“I had a safety team out there,” Evans said, “and they were tireless,” helping racers all through the dark and stormy nights between Tacoma and Port Townsend.

The Seventy48 — a 70-mile stretch of wild water traversed in 48 hours or less — started at 7 p.m. Friday. By Sunday afternoon, the final finishers had arrived.

A total of 43 teams finished out of the 92 in the race.

First-place winner Carter Johnson of Team Gorge Downwind Champs may have made it look easy. He knifed his way to the Northwest Maritime Center dock six minutes before 5 a.m. Saturday, then carried his kayak onto the beach, took a hot shower and watched Ken Deem, the second-place finisher, come in at 5:20 a.m.

By Saturday night, conditions turned rough. Yet the racers kept paddling and rowing — this is a strictly human-powered event, after all — astonishing Evans and the rest of the people tracking via Seventy48.com.

First to arrive Sunday morning was Akeyla Behrenfeld, 14, of Port Townsend.

Her oars and grit propelled her to the finish line at 12:33 a.m. The teenager, who called herself Team Tardigrade, beat her father, Timothy Behrenfeld, by one minute.

Five more teams made it in during the wee hours, then three more after sunup.

The finale Sunday afternoon brought three soloists: Standup paddleboarder Erica Whisenant of Olympia glided in at 2:37 p.m.; David Cascadden of Bend, Ore., aka Team Haggis Head, followed two minutes later.

And the one to put the exclamation point on the race was Jeannine Mackie of Gig Harbor, piloting her standup paddleboard into Port Townsend at 2:46 p.m. Sunday.

For some racers, the Seventy48 was a mere first leg. Deem’s Team Wave Forager was entered in the WA360, the 360-mile loop from Port Townsend Bay to Olympia, Bellingham and Point Roberts and back to Port Townsend.

That race started at 6 a.m. Monday, and while competitors have up to two weeks to finish, captains such as Jeanne Goussev of Team Sail Like a Girl have estimated they will be back in five days or fewer.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.

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