From left, Cedric Wesley Keneipp and Mallory Hood, both of Bellingham, sail in Bellingham Bay. They are part of Barely Legal Racing, a team of 19- to 22-year-olds that plan to compete in the Race to Alaska in 2021.

From left, Cedric Wesley Keneipp and Mallory Hood, both of Bellingham, sail in Bellingham Bay. They are part of Barely Legal Racing, a team of 19- to 22-year-olds that plan to compete in the Race to Alaska in 2021.

SAILING: Bellingham teens plan to join Race to Alaska

PORT TOWNSEND — There’s going to be two young teams racing up the inside passage to Ketchikan, Alaska, hopefully on June 7.

Bellingham’s Cedric Wesley Keneipp and his young teammates have a dream — To not only be possibly the youngest overall team ever to finish the Port Townsend-Ketchikan, Alaska Race to Alaska, but to finish the race with enough flair to gain sponsors for a professional team.

Keneipp, a student at Bellingham Technical College and a graduate of Sehome High School, knows the waters around Port Townsend well. His aunt and uncle, Matt and Stephanie McCleary, live in Port Townsend.

The Race to Alaska is planning a June 7, 2021, 750-mile race from Port Townsend north up the Strait of Georgia, Johnstone Strait and further north all the way into Alaska. Because of COVID-19 and the closure of the Canadian border, the race had to be canceled this year.

Keneipp, who is 19, heads a team called Barely Legal Sailing with a number of young sailors from Bellingham and other areas. Team members range in ages from 19 to 22. Keneipp said there’s been some younger individuals who have competed in the Race to Alaska, but if Barely Legal Racing completes the race, Keneipp thinks it will be the youngest overall team to conquer the Race to Alaska.

Another Port Townsend-based high school team, Team FAST (Freaking Awesome Sailing Teens), that plans to do the 2021 race might be a bit younger. This is a team of 16- to 18-year-olds (their ages in February) that wasn’t able to do the race in 2020 because of COVID-19. Race boss Daniel Evans confirmed that Team FAST still plans to race in the 2021 event.

Barely Legal Sailing team member Daniela Moroz, from the San Francisco Bay Area, is also 19, while Mallory Hood, another Bellingham product, is 20. Liam Hood from Bellingham is 22. Another Bellingham team member is Shea Walker, and the team is filled out by a Michigan sailor, Liam Walz.

The team is still deciding what kind of boat to use, either a monohull or a trimarans (similar to a catamaran only with three hulls). Keneipp said a monohull can handle a wider variety of conditions while a trimaran has more raw speed but can run into problems in heavy waves.

Keneipp, who has been sailing since he was 11 years old, is experienced in long-distance races. He’s done a 600-mile sail before on the East Coast and raced in the Marblehead to Halifax event on the East Coast, a 300-mile-long race through the open Atlantic Ocean. He said this race at times was “a solid three horizons away” from shore.

“The Race to Alaska is definitely much closer to land,” he said.

Keneipp said he’s confident that he and his team are good enough to not only finish the race but be competitive for the top spots.

Keneipp said he isn’t that worried about the weather or the waves. His biggest concern is that the waters up the inside passage to Ketchikan can be full of logs lurking beneath the surface.

“I’m a little worried about the logs up there,” he said.

Keneipp said he is pretty much working full-time on the racing endeavour. He sees this effort “as really a first step” toward picking up sponsors and becoming a professional sailing team.

“It’s something we’re doing all on our own. We want to prove that we can do it,” he said.

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