We’ve raced with motors which were shady at best and beyond our technical skills at the very least. Why not toss the engine overboard and rely on manpower and the whims of the wind. R2AK is the longest race in North America with the highest prize of 10,000 USD. Second prize: steak knives. One of the things we love about R2AK is the sense of humor of the organizers, Northwest Maritime Center, and the utter lack of rules. The rules boil down to: no motor and no help. There are only 2 mandatory waypoints, the rest of the way is left to each team.
One Race, Two Parts:
The race consists of two legs. The first leg is a qualifying round. The gun goes off June 8 at 5am (why are they shooting at us?) This is an opportunity for the Northwest Maritime Center to prove that they gave us fair warning before setting out on the full race. This also is our chance to reconsider our sanity. Considering now. Yeah, still going to do it. The first leg is 40 miles from Port Townsend, WA to Victoria, BC. Race organizers give plenty of safety and support for this first bit should things go awry. We will also need to pass through Canadian customs. We aren’t too worried about the friendly mounties. We have learned that they are vehemently against apples and avocados, but you are allowed to bring in a hunk of cheese the size of a toddler. Seriously, you are allowed 44 pounds of cheese. Can we fit this in the boat? The organizers also give you a couple days to think about what you’ve done, fix the hole Freddy put in the boat, and apologize to the other crews we ran into, before heading off on the second leg.
After a couple nights dreaming of steak knives, we get to sleep in till the start of the long stretch at high noon on June 11. This is the main race, 710 miles from Victoria, BC to Ketchikan, AK. This section has no built in safety net. We run the risk of gale force winds, tidal whirlpools, being crushed by a freighter, pierced by driftwood, eaten by a bear, and losing our pride. Actually, we don’t have much pride. All we have to rely on is the skill (or lack of skill) of our 3 person crew. Meet them here, and express your concern in the comments below. We must be entirely self-sufficient. No food drops or prearranged assistance are allowed. We must pass through Seymour Narrows (killer whales, and video of extreme tidal whirlpools in the link) and Lama Passage in front of Bella Bella. We’re not sure yet how we are going to get there or prove that we passed through. They suggest taking a picture of the coast with that day’s newspaper in the frame. Where do we get that newspaper?
Winning is for Winners
The only real winners are the first team to ring the bell at Ketchikan. They walk away with 10,000 USD. The next boat gets steak knives. The first team to ring the bell and say yes to selling off their boat can get 10,000 USD in the buyback program. Really, though, finishing the adventure is a great win. Boats have finished between 4 days and never. Once the first boat rings the bell, or the date the Grim Sweeper is set to sail (whichever comes last), the sweeper starts coming for you. If it passes your boat, you are dead in the water and out of the race.
The race is in its third year. It’s been raced by boats of incredibly varied sizes, as well as one nutter on a SUP. Last year 44 boats registered and only 26 finished, but hey, that’s more than half, so our odds are great. We’d bet on us. Would you?