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R2AK update, Newport Bermuda Race, Mac Solo Challenges

by David Schmidt 20 Jun 08:00 PDT June 20, 2022
Jason Carroll's MOD70 Argo takes the start of the Newport Bermuda Race © Daniel Forster / PPL

The past week has been a big one for North American sailing. Monday, June 13 saw the start of the sixth Race to Alaska (R2AK); Friday, June 17, saw the start of the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race, and Saturday, June 18, saw the start of the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society's Mac Solo Challenges.

Let's start with the races that began on the West and East Coasts.

Both the R2AK and the Newport Bermuda Race saw big weather out of the gates, and although the fleets are comprised of vastly different boats, the desire to get out and experience nature, the ocean, adventure, and competition runs strong in both events.

The 2022 edition of the R2AK began on the waters off of Port Townsend, Washington, under cloudy skies, big breezes, and huge seas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The race is split into two legs: a 40 nautical mile "Proving Ground" race to Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, followed by a 710 nautical mile race to the finishing line off of Ketchikan, Alaska (with a mandatory pit stop in Bella Bella, BC, along the way).

The R2AK race organizers were smart to build plenty of timeframe into the Proving Ground leg, which is run sans a ticking clock: each team simply had to ring the official bell in Victoria to qualify for the 710 nautical mile leg north. Given that the leg from Victoria to Ketchikan didn't start until high noon on Thursday (June 16), teams could choose their weather window.

Many opted to start on Monday. This worked out for some teams, however this decision proved unwise for others, as the winds were blowing 30+ knots and massive seas were running against the tide. The result was huge conditions that fully lived up to the word "nautical".

Four teams required rescue (two by R2AK support boats, two compliments of the United States Coast Guard...plus reports of aid rendered by a ferry), three boats capsized (one boat reportedly pitchpoled backwards), and one boat suffered a broken rig. Other teams spun their bows back towards Port Townsend as equipment failed, or as judgement prevailed. Four race participants ended up in the hospital with hypothermia, however all participants ultimately emerged OK.

The rest of the fleet dispatched their Proving Ground legs over the next couple days in significantly more moderate conditions.

Racing recommenced on Thursday (June 16) in glassy conditions following a Le Mans start in Victoria's harbor. Three boats—Team Pure and Wild, Team Elsewhere, and Team Kootenay Pedalwheelers—opted for the outside track up Vancouver Island's West Coast, while the rest of the fleet took the inside routing, which weaves between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia.

Conditions reportedly got rough on the inside on the first night, and several teams experienced troubles, including a capsize and race-ending damage. Fortunately, all involved are safe.

As of this writing (Sunday morning, June 20, U.S. West Coast time) Team Pure and Wild, sailing aboard a Riptide 44 monohull, was looking strong. They had cleared the mandatory check-in point at Bella Bella, and were pushing towards the finishing line in Ketchikan.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the fleet contesting the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race started on Friday (June 17) with a forecast that called for a "classic" Thrash to the Onion Patch for the first 36 to 48 hours.

In a jaw-dropping show of speed, Jason Carroll's MOD70 Argo crossed the finishing line on Saturday night at 23:20:09, local time, becoming the first boat in the race's storied history to pull off a Saturday finish. Their total elapsed time was 33 hours and 09 seconds.

To help frame this achievement, Argo's run was 30+ hours faster than the time established by Carroll's Gunboat 62 Elvis in 2018, and it's also 1 hour, 42 minuets, and 42 seconds faster than Comanche's performance in the 2016 Newport Bermuda.

On the monohull side, Charlie Enright, skipper of 11th Hour Racing's new IMOCA 60 Malama, and his crew finished the race in 41 hours, 28 minutes, and 43 seconds, after what the team described as a grueling race.

"This has been full on," said Enright in an official race release, after crossing the finish line. "There has been no rest for anybody onboard. From the moment we left Newport we have been racing at speeds between 20-30-knots in a heated sea state... I can only describe the last 41 hours as living in a washing machine, which, speaking of washing machines, we could all use one right now!"

And in between these two coasts, there's also been plenty of offshore racing action on the Great Lakes, compliments of the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society, which is running the Mac Solo Challenges.

These consist of the Port Huron to Mackinac Island Challenge (230 nautical miles), the Chicago to Mackinac Island Challenge (287 nautical miles), the Super Mac (517 nautical miles), and the Super Mac and Back (1,034 nautical miles).

These annual races began on Saturday, June 18, and while they utilize different racecourses, they all finish off of Mackinac Island.

Sail-World wishes all of these teams—as well as the IMOCA 60 skippers competing in the Vendée Arctique - Les Sables d'Olonne—safe and fast passage on their respective racecourses, and their deliveries home.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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