PORT TOWNSEND — For the second consecutive year, the annual Race to Alaska event has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Racers aren’t left with nothing, though, as the Northwest Maritime Center (NMC) announced the continuation of the Seventy48 race and a new event called the WA360.
With COVID-19 still rampant and the country’s border with Canada still closed, organizers decided to cancel the 2021 race, Race Boss Daniel Evans said in a press release.
“In 2020 we witnessed the Canadian border drop like a guillotine on the neck of Race to Alaska,” Evans said. “That race would have been the sixth of the annual race organized by the maritime center.
“Since our imprisonment, we at high command have watched the world tear itself apart in an effort to put itself back together more COVID-resilient.
“However, the border is still closed and the communities along the race route remain fragile and do not want us anywhere near their shores. And we have no desire to be their Grim Reaper.”
Organizers hope to have the Race to Alaska — a 750-mile journey from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska — return in 2022.
Teams that have already registered and paid their fees will have their fees refunded or can choose to have them credited for the 2022 race. Other options are listed at r2ak.com/cancellation-policy.
Next year will mark the start of a new race, the WA360 — or Washington360 — that is similar to the R2AK in that it will be an engine-less and unsupported race. It will be 360 miles “through the best and worst conditions Washington waters have to offer,” beginning June 7, Evans said.
Registration for the WA360 opens on Jan. 15 and costs $550 per team plus $50 per additional team member. Once it’s open, applications can be submitted at nwmaritime.org/wa360.
The race will start in Port Townsend and head south with participants passing Port Ludlow as they sail to Olympia, where they will turn north and pass Tacoma, Seattle, Anacortes, Oak Harbor and Bellingham before they reach Point Roberts, where the teams will turn around and return to Port Townsend, according to the WA360 webpage.
Racers will have two weeks to finish the course.
They can stop as much as they want, but they are required to follow all COVID-19 health protocols for the area in which they stop, Evans said.
“Your politics are your own, but this race will be following the sum total of the guidance being offered by the communities we’ll be traveling through,” he said. “Do differently, and you’re likely to find yourself exiled from town and this race.”
Unlike the R2AK, engines can stay aboard the vessels, but using them will be grounds for disqualification, Evans said.
Racers can choose which class of vessel, their specific route and how many crew members they have, but for this race, as there are no handicaps, “fast boats tend to win,” Evans said.
Awards will be given for finishing first in three classes: “Go Fast” for the fastest vessel, such as racing sleds and catamarans that have a “sail to cup-holder ratio that exceeds 1:1;” “Go Hard” for larger cruisers that travel more slowly; and “Human Powered” for kayaks, rowboats and other vessels that forgo wind for human muscle.
“This ain’t the R2AK,” Evans said. “Make it to Port Townsend, pack your boat with whatever you can’t do without, start the race in the right direction, keep turning, and we’ll see you back in Port Townsend.
“And remember, you’re not going to Alaska — you don’t have to worry about customs.”
The annual Seventy48 race from Tacoma to Port Townsend will begin at 7 p.m. June 4, according to the race’s website.
The human-powered boat race is a 70-mile race conducted over 48 hours from Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway to Port Townsend, and participants can only pedal, paddle or row, with no engines or wind power allowed.
Applications are being accepted now through April 15, with final registration due April 3.
Applications for the Seventy48 can be submitted at seventy48.com/apply.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].