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Former Marinite Near Lead in R2AK

Norton Smith lived in Mill Valley when he won the inaugural Singlehanded TransPac in 1978 with a Santa Cruz 27. Two years later he won both stages of the inaugural Mini Transat from Portsmouth, UK, to Antigua via the Canaries with the Wylie 20 American Express. Smith, who we believe now lives in the Port Townsend area, is back for another inaugural event. Smith and his shipmate Piper Dunlap, sailing the Hobie 20 Hexagram 59 (from the I Ching), modified so it can also be propelled by pedal power, are currently as good as tied for first in the inaugural R2AK, a 750-mile sail/paddle race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska.

The somewhat wacky nature of the event — $10,000 for first place, a set of steak knives for second — caught the imagination of 59 skippers of everything from the likes of a Montgomery 15, to a Mirror 15 dinghy, to an Etchells sloop, to production multihulls — to the editors of the front page of the New York Times.

The R2AK is split into two stages. Stage 1 is the ‘Proving Ground’, 40 miles from Port Townsend to Victoria. Stage 2 is the ‘Long Haul’, 710 miles from Victoria to Ketchikan. Fifty-three entries answered the starting gun, which was fired at dawn on June 4 with 20 knots of wind on the beam.

You can imagine what happened. According to organizers, “Calamity fell soon after the horn as teams bashed into the wall of wind and waves advancing around Point Wilson just north of Port Townsend. Some teams took the bravest route — assessing the condition of the weather and their boat, they stared down their year-long desire to be in the race and exercised the better part of their valor, reconsidering the launch or returning to shore shortly after experiencing the first cycle of the washing machine. There were teams that fared less well, affirming the phrase that ‘The sea finds out what you did wrong.’ Masts came off, boats were swamped, boats were capsized, crews disintegrated under pressure and parted company when they hit the beach. In all, 13 teams, some pre-race favorites, exited the race before Victoria.” 

The start of the Race to Alaska at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday. 

© Race to Alaska

Team Golden Oldies, with a crew of six aboard the Crowther 38 Super Shockwave, won the first leg, arriving at 9:18 that morning, as they had wind and they not only have a multihull, they have waterline on the rest of the fleet. They finished in just four hours, a 10-knot average. The slowest of the non-dropouts took 32 hours, averaging just over one knot, to reach Victoria.

Stage 2 started yesterday, and, wonder of wonders, the multihulls, including little Hexagram 59, are at the front of the fleet. So is a group of six soon to be very tired men in an outrigger canoe. You can follow the fleet at the event’s website

The fleet’s positions this morning from the tracker. 

© 2015 Race to Alaska

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