PORT TOWNSEND — Under a star-filled sky and on calm seas, Epic, a kayak team from Bellingham, won the inaugural Seventy48 race by arriving at 3:09 a.m. Tuesday at City Dock, just 9 hours and 39 minutes after the start 70 miles south in Tacoma.
Olympian Greg Barton and Kevin Olney started in Tacoma in the front of the pack of 121 human-powered watercraft and led most of the way. They take home a prize purse of $11,700.
Second place went to 6 x 600, a team from Seattle in a Malolo outrigger canoe powered by Alan Goto, Eernie Wong, Troy Nishikawa, Gavin Godfrey, Patrick Hwang and Eric Scharffenberg. They arrived at 3:28 a.m., just 19 minutes behind the first-place finishers.
Way Two Close, a mono-hull rowed by Tyler Peterson and Greg Spooner from Burien, placed third, arriving at 4:20 a.m.
Fourth place went to Go Mama, the first all-female team finisher and a double kayak, from Bellingham at 4:37 a.m.
The first solo finisher was Ken Deem of Tacoma in sixth place in his Wave Forager monohull.
The first paddleboard to finish was fan favorite Karl Kruger of Deer Harbor, coming in at 8:15 a.m.
“It was tough, historic. The first two hours were harder than I wanted them to be,” said Barton, a sprint kayaker who competed in three Summer Olympics (1984, 1988 and 1991) and won four medals — two golds and two bronzes.
“The other two boats were right there, especially Way Too Close. Greg and Tyler were faster than us and had flat water, and they were trying to make good on it. And we were working harder than we wanted to, and knew we couldn’t let them go. There was some cat and mouse going on.”
Barton said that around Blake Island, Way Too Close made a run for it.
“Then we caught them. Then they went way out to the right at Blake Island and caught some current. We got behind them, then along side. The water was rough and they were struggling, and we went on by them,” he said.
“That was the turning point. They expended a lot of energy trying to get ahead of us and we caught them. And then we left them. Psychologically, we had the advantage.”
Barton said it was a beautiful night to be out on the water.
“You could see the stars, the Big Dipper. It was cool to be out there just paddling.”
Olney said he had a great adventure.
“It’s a combination of feeling really, really good and really, really not good,” he explained. “Everything hurts. That’s what happens when you paddle with a gold medalist.
“It was an honor to be in a boat with that guy. Just the strategy. We did a lot more training on the course, especially at night, than some of the other teams. That gave us an edge.”
Olney said that during the first 20 miles the pace was fast because everybody was excited and pushing each other.
“We just tried to conserve as much as possible and just go as fast as everybody else was going. Then there came a point where they backed off a little bit and we made our break away there. They dropped back and we kept going,” he said.
“We had a pretty steady pace we were training at so once we got out in front we just dropped into that, and that is the groove we stayed in.
“I knew we won about 30-40 miles from the finish. We had a substantial lead and it was ours to lose by making a mistake or running into a rock.”
Patrick Hwang of the second-place finishers said his team worked as a unit and stayed strong throughout the course.
“We had some wind, some currents, but it flattened out at the end,” Hwang said. “The eddies were pushing us a lot.”
“We started in the front row and paced ourselves. Everyone shoots out fast so we paced ourselves for the first few hours. Our race strategy was to stay with the leaders, work at our own pace. Our game plan was to be steady.”
“It was lots of fun,” he said.
“We hit our goal to be here in 10 hours and we just got it in. We’re happy.”
To follow the remaining competitors, an online race tracker can be found at http://tracker.seventy48.com/
Seventy48 is organized by the Northwest Maritime Center. Executive Director Jake Beattie was impressed with the experience of the participants.
“We’re kind of blown away by the number of teams,” Beattie said. “The winning team came in basically on their plan and averaged over seven miles an hour. It’s pretty impressive.”
In talking with the racers, Beattie said he found a feeling of community.
“We’re connecting people to the sea, the experience and to each other. We’re checking all the boxes so far.
“It’s always impressive when there are phenomenal people, legendary people among us. There is a collection of truly elite athletes in Port Townsend — world record holders and an Olympian — hanging out drinking coffee at 4:30 in the morning. These people are amazing.”
Racers have until 5:30 p.m. today to finish the race or be disqualified.
Race Boss Daniel Evans, said boats are scattered all over Pope Marine Park at and there is lots of camaraderie.
“I like how we are reinventing how Port Townsend engages with its waterfront,” Evans said.
As of Tuesday at 4:45 p.m., 48 teams had finished the race.
Evans said six people have left the race due to “weary bodies, back and shoulder issues, a broken oar, and one person was hypothermic.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].