Wind returns for Day 3 of Race to Alaska

Teams pushing north along Vancouver Island

VANCOUVER ISLAND — Winds started to pick up on the third day of the Race to Alaska, giving sailing teams a welcome rest from paddling their boats as they pushed north along Vancouver Island.

“There’s some nice breeze picking up near the Comox, Courtenay area, so bunch of teams are putting up sail,” said Jesse Wiegel, race boss for Northwest Maritime, which hosts the race. Wiegel said wind was starting to blow from the south, but it wasn’t forecast to last very long, so teams were trying to get the most out of the weather while they could.

The second day of the race saw several of the sail-powered teams having to rely on rowing or pedal power to move their boats forward.

“Just two days after full-on gales, there were pockets of wind, but like women’s pants — the pockets were barely there and not that useful,” Thursday’s race update said.

The trimaran team Malolo maintained its first-place position Friday with a healthy lead over the rest of fleet. At mid-day, the team was at least 20 miles ahead of the second-place team, Hullabaloo, in the Johnstone Strait on the northwestern side of Vancouver Island.

On Friday, five teams had passed through the race’s first checkpoint at the Seymour Narrows north of Campbell River while the remaining 27 teams were spread out along the island’s west coast.

Aside from the teams that dropped out during the race’s proving ground phase from Port Townsend to Victoria, no additional teams have dropped out of the race, which Wiegel said was unusual. Plenty of things have broken, Wiegel said, but innovative repairs have kept teams afloat.

The weather at Seymour Narrows, where Wiegel was with the race’s media team, was drizzly and partly cloudy Friday, with large dark and foreboding clouds on the horizon.

The Johnstone Strait north of the narrows is notoriously windy, Wiegel said, with few places to take shelter from the weather.

Race to Alaska offers $10,000 to the first team to reach Ketchikan, Alaska, and a set of steak knives to second place.

There are three human-powered teams remaining in this year’s race. On Friday, the four-person, pedal-powered team Boogie Barge was in the middle of the pack in 14th place and the solo kayaker team Let’s Wing It was in 20th.

Bringing up the rear well behind the rest of the fleet was the Jim Heumann of the one-man team Barely Heuman. Heumann’s pedal-powered craft somewhat resembles an egg. On Friday, he was still approaching the city of Nanaimo while the rest of the racers had already pushed north.

Being in last place didn’t seem to bother Heumann though: He texted Wiegel on Friday to say he was headed to the pub.

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

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