Please select your home edition
Edition
Selden

Welcoming the Race to Alaska's class of 2019

by David Schmidt 16 Apr 10:00 PDT April 16, 2019
Team Kairos – Race to Alaska 2018 © Katrina Zoe Norbom / racetoalaska.com

If you're anything like me, April 15 isn't your favorite day. Sure, income taxes happen, and they need to be paid in order to help finance a functional society, but strange is the sailor who would rather cut a fat check to the IRS than scribbling a similar payment to his or her sailmaker. Fortunately, your friends at the Race to Alaska (R2AK) worked hard yet again to instil a bit of excitement into a day that many of us rue by accepting the final entries for the 2019 edition of this human-powered adventure race at the stroke of midnight on Monday.

For racers, the class of 2019 is now established (baring last-minute drop-outs); for the rest of us, now is the time to start reading up on the teams, picking your favorites, and cheering all contestants onwards as they prepare for a race that can only be described as tough, both mentally and physically.

For anyone just now reading about the R2AK, the event was dreamed up at the 2014 Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, in Port Townsend, Washington, and is run by the good folks at the Northwest Maritime Center. The conversation focused on the concept of a "fair means" race to Alaska, starting in Port Townsend and following the inside passage up between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, before punching into the open waters of Queen Charlotte sound and gunning for the finishing line in Ketchikan. (Yes, pints were involved.)

The punchline? No engines. Period.

Racers are free to select any steed they like, so long as the vessel is entirely human-powered and free of an internal combustion engine. This, of course, places a huge emphasis on the ability to sail, row or pedal, and it also makes one's choice of vessels a critical decision. Moreover, it reduces reliance on electronic navigation and weather-routing services, therefore placing even greater importance on preparation and vessel selection.

The first answer to the race's riddle as to the fastest horse for the course was a trimaran (2015), followed by a turbo-charged catamaran (2016), followed by a wicked-up trimaran (2017), followed last year by a monohull. While this nicely covers the gamut of yacht design, it also hoists more question marks than it douses.

Race wisdom holds that the first team to make it through Seymour Narrows - a spot roughly two thirds of the way up Vancouver Island's inside passage (just north of Vancouver's Campbell River) where the peak tide can hit 15-16 knots - will most likely be the first to Ketchikan. This, of course, places a massive premium on each team's ability to crank hard through this 3.1-mile stretch of brine, irrespective of the apparent airs.

Teams can make stops and can get help and supplies along the way, so long as all resources used are publicly available (read: general stores are in; dedicated supply vans are out), and teams are welcome to camp on the beach... so long as sailors have cans of bear spray ready, as sailing in the Pacific Northwest isn't exactly like day sailing on Long Island Sound.

All sailors, irrespective of the number of hulls they elect to sail north with, must respect the fact that the water is cold, hypothermia is never more than a few minutes away, and there's a ton of heavy metal (commercial shipping) contending for piloting bandwidth. Moreover, north of Vancouver Island, sailors need to be prepared for a wilderness experience, coupled with usually nasty conditions.

The 2019 edition of the R2AK will start on the waters off of Port Townsend, Washington on Monday, June 3, and will take racers first to Victoria, B.C., a 40-mile shakedown cruise that serves as Leg 1 (read: the race's "proving ground"), before pushing on a few days later to Ketchikan.

Not surprisingly, the 2019 fleet looks a lot like similar classes in the sense that sailors are still arm-wrestling over the best tool for the job. In addition to the usual suspects (e.g. Melges 24s, F-24s, F-27s, and F-31s), interesting entrants include Team Auklet's Bolger Glasshouse Chebacco, Team Pear Shaped Racing's Chris Cochrane 10.6m custom trimaran, Team Solveig's Norwegian faering rowboat, Team Ziska: Sail Like A Luddite's Lancashire Nobby, Team Extremely Insane's Airboard SUP, and Team Holopuni's Hawaiian outrigger sailing canoe.

And while a Hobie Adventure Island is a proven R2AK design, Nigel Davies officially gets our vote for the coolest name of 2019 with his Team Hobie-1-Kenobie entry. (May the Force be with you, Mr. Davies.)

If this seems like an eclectic fleet, welcome to the R2AK. And if racing to Alaska sans an engine or any fast and easy escape hatch sounds like a darn good time, remember, your next Tax Day could be filled with serious excitement over an upcoming adventure, rather than sour tears over a drained bank account.

Sail-World.com wishes all 2019 R2AK entrants good luck as they ready their steeds and make their final preparations for what can only be described as one of North America's wildest sailboat races.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

Related Articles

Olympics news regarding Paris 2024 and Tokyo 2020
Equipment selection currently dominating the sailing news While the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are still well beyond the horizon, wheels are already turning for the Paris 2024 Olympics, with equipment selection dominating the Olympic sailing news cycle Posted today at 3:00 pm
Zane Yoder on the 2019 Melges 24 U.S. Nationals
An interview with Zane Yoder about the 2019 Melges 24 U.S. National Championship I checked in with Zane Yoder, Gulf Coast District Director of the Melges 24 Class, via email, to learn more about the 2019 Melges 24 NorAm Tour and it's Fairhope, Alabama regatta (May 22-26, 2019). Posted on 20 May
Not the Golden Arches
Although you can eat there if you so choose. Your call. Today, we're talking about the other Maccas Although you can eat there if you so choose. Your call. Our call today, is to talk about the other Maccas. The one with the truly enviable reputation, and the one that is good for you, builds vessels with a strong constitution... Posted on 19 May
Worrell 1000, Williams wins Bermuda Gold Cup
Latest Sail-World USA newsletter from David Schmidt The challenge of racing small, open catamarans across almost 1,000 miles of North Atlantic brine is just as stiff today as it was during the Worrell 1000's heyday. Posted on 14 May
World Sailing's chance to move sailing forwards
The big question is will they take it? A big decision is coming up this weekend for sailing. The decision makers are those right at the centre of the sport's governing body: World Sailing's Council. Will they support their own appointed evaluators, or even vote on the decision at all? Posted on 14 May
Guardians of the Galaxy
Collection. Agglomeration. Assemblage. Cumulation. Medley. Collection. Agglomeration. Assemblage. Cumulation. Medley. Yes, the moment I realised I had a small gathering of bits for this editorial I was immediately thinking of Drax the Destroyer from the movie whose title is our headline today. Posted on 12 May
Resurgence of the Worrell 1000, SailGP hits SFO
We like adventurous sailing races If you've read this newsletter for a while, you'll know that Sail-World and its North American editor have a massive soft spot for sailboat races that involve a significant adventurous component. Posted on 7 May
Sticks and Stinks – They do mix!
SCIBS looms, predominantly a powerboat event, with a few sails too SCIBS looms, and whilst it is predominantly a powerboat event, there are a few sticks around. One that will undoubtedly standout against its far cruisier cousins, will be the one above the very racey hull form that is the FarEast 28R. Posted on 5 May
RS Aero wins Equipment trials
For the 2024 Olympic Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy The RS Aero has won World Sailing's Equipment trials (Sea Trials) for the 2024 Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy Event. The four boats tested were the D-Zero, Laser, Melges 14 and RS Aero. Posted on 3 May
Malcolm Page on the state of U.S. Olympic sailing
An interview with Malcolm Page about the state of U.S. Olympic sailing I checked in with Malcolm Page, US Sailing's chief of Olympic sailing, via email, to learn more about the team's progress towards the Tokyo Olympics 2020 (July 24-August 9). Posted on 1 May
Vaikobi 2019 - Footer 3RS Sailing BOTTOMWindBot-COACH-660x82