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Cyclops 2022 May LEADERBOARD

Celebrating North American adventure and distance racing

by David Schmidt 7 Jun 10:00 PDT June 7, 2022
Pear shaped Racing during the Race to Alaska 2019 © Drew Malcolm

If you live in North America and are interested in adventure and offshore racing, the next two weeks offer a lot to love. This begins next Monday, June 13, on the waters off of Port Townsend, Washington, with the start of the 2022 edition of the Race to Alaska. Then, the action shifts to Newport, Rhode Island, and the start of the 52nd edition of the storied Newport Bermuda Race on Friday, June 17. While these events are different in nature, they all involve distance sailing and a healthy dose of adventure.

The Race to Alaska began in 2015 when the organizers announced an entirely new kind of challenge: 750 miles of racing from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska, with a layover in Victoria, British Columbia, and a mandatory check-in in Bella Bella, BC. Racers had to take the inside track, between Vancouver Island and mainland BC, they could not carry an engine (forget about the honor system), and they could not accept private outside help.

Stopping at a town with a chandlery that’s open to all racers is fine; getting shadowed by a private team van (or any other exclusive aid) that provides help is out. Racers can—and do—take any craft they like, from speedy trimarans and monohulls to canoes and kayaks to stand-up paddleboards.

After five successful runnings, the 2020 and 2021 editions fell victim to Covid-19. However, the 2022 edition returns with a significant change, which has been brewing for a while. This year, teams can opt to take the inside route or the outside route around Vancouver Island.

Neither are without their challenges. The outside routing is more weather-exposed, but the inside track involves traffic management and the infamous Seymour Narrows, which serves as a tidal gate. Both routes are gorgeous (I’ve sailed them both, but during the Van Isle 360), and both can offer the kinds of unvarnished adventure that the R2AK has become (in)famous for delivering, especially given that the no-engine rule hasn’t budged.

As of this writing, 38 full-course teams and 12 Proving Ground teams will line up on Monday on the waters off of Port Townsend, WA, and will aim their bows towards Victoria (Leg 1 has always served as the event’s proving ground). The event restarts on Thursday, June 16, at which point it will become a weather-router’s challenge for the bigger, offshore-worthy vessels (read: inside or outside?), while racers on smaller vessels will need to concentrate on trying to be the first through Seymour Narrows, lest they have to wait out a tide cycle. (Teams on the bigger boats will have this same pressure, should they opt for inside routing.)

The first team to Ketchikan gets $10,000, while the second team gets a shiny set of steak knives. Everyone else gets to keep their memories.

While the R2AK has a history of delivering surprises en route to Ketchikan, this year could be the story of the fastest trimaran ever entered in the race (Team Malolo) against the fastest monohull (Team Pure and Wild) to ever ply this racecourse.

It will be fascinating to see how all of this shakes out.

Meanwhile, on the right side of the country, the 52nd Thrash to the Onion Patch is set to begin on Friday, June 17, on the waters off of Newport, Rhode Island. It will take the 193 registered teams (as of this writing) across 635 nautical miles of open brine—including crossing the Gulf Stream—to the beautiful island nation of Bermuda.

Like the R2AK, there are several boats entered this year that could rewrite the history books.

The recently added multihull division features Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo, as well as Jacek Siwek’s Ultim'emotion2, which is a maxi multihull. The Open Division features 11th Hour Racing’s new IMOCA 60 Malama, while the Gibbs Lighthouse Division features Rafal Sawicki Volovo Open 70 Ocean Breeze, Atlas Ocean Racing’s Volvo Open 70 Il Mostro, and Oakcliff’s Maxz86 Oc86. Other fast hardware includes George Sakellaris’ Maxi 72 Proteus and Terence Glackin’s Mills 68 Prospector.

While these quick boats are impressive and will be a great sight to behold on the starting line for those lucky enough to attend, the event has also been growing its doublehanded division, which now includes 17 teams on boats ranging from a J/99 to a Hinckley Sou’Wester 51.

In between these classes are the many teams that populate the Finisterre Division (this was previously called the cruising class) and the St. David’s Lighthouse Division. (N.B., there’s also the superyacht division and the spirit of tradition class, each with one entry.)

While I am all out of crystal balls when it comes to guessing Bermuda Race winners, I am willing to confidently predict that plenty of teams will encounter Dark n’ Stormies once their dock lines are secured.

Sail-World wishes all of these teams fast and safe passage on their respective racecourses.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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