It was the best kind of win for what’s fast becoming the best kind of race. Due to glitches on boats and ashore, nobody knew who was ahead or who would win the 700+ mile Race to Alaska until they hove into view off the Ketchikan Yacht Club yesterday.
As the race site noted, it was a “five-cruise-ship day” in Ketchikan, but among the faithful, there was definitely “a disturbance in the Force.” When a sail finally appeared 10 miles out, race organizers and TV crew scrambled into their chase boats and zoomed out to see who it was.
“Who’s winning?” came the question from Team Angry Beaver – Skiff Foundation, as soon as the greeters got within earshot. At the cry of “You are!” the Beavs whooped and hollered and popped open their last five beers.
The Seattle-based team’s former Bay-based Schock 40 (ex-Secret Squirrel) is the second monohull in as many years to take the $10,000 first prize. In second to claim the set of (really nice) steak knives was Team Pear Shaped Racing. That was it for the awards.
The San Francisco-based Team Shut Up and Drive was third, with last year’s winners, the all-female team Sail Like a Girl, fourth. As of this writing, 11 other boats had finished. The remaining 22 will continue to trickle in until the June 14 cutoff.
The dramatic finishes of this year’s R2AK made us think of the good old days before instant communication when, on long ocean races, you often didn’t know who the winners were until they showed up. For the R2AK, though, that drama was unintentional. Radio glitchiness caused some boats to figuratively disappear for days. The rain and overcast sometimes made their disappearance literal. Pre-race favorites Pear Shaped Racing were among those afflicted. Their lithe 34-ft trimaran had the speed, and the crew had the racing pedigrees, not only to win but to annihilate the course record. But most venues they’d raced in didn’t include logs (they hit four of them, the last of which killed their radios). Negotiating Seymour Narrows, where the current can run up to 12 knots, was likewise a tad beyond their ‘local knowledge’ purview.
As another R2AK winds down, we find ourselves already eager for the next one. With the simplicity of the concept — “no motors and no outside assistance” — and the reality of fitting sailboats with paddles and rowing stations and then braving cold water, strong currents and the occasional curious bear for hundreds of miles up the Inside Passage . . . what’s not to like?
As the event continues to gain ‘cred’, we expect to see most of this year’s participants once again return to The Last Frontier, along with a bunch of new adventurers. Perhaps you may be among them . . . ?
For more, visit www.r2ak.com.