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R2AK – Beware the Ides of April

Taxes or the R2AK . . . ? R2AK or taxes . . . ? Eenie, meenie, miney . . .

April 15 wasn’t just the deadline for filing tax returns, it was also the deadline for signing up for the wild and crazy Race to Alaska. So if you were juggling sending Uncle Sam more money against obsessing about spending two weeks on a boat freezing your tush off while dodging tidal races and the occasional bear — we hope you filed an extension and got your butt and boat up to Port Townsend.

So far, there are 33 entries who did not wait until the last minute to enter the fifth running of the R2AK, which starts on June 3.

The appeal  — or revulsion, depending on how you look at it — of the R2AK is the simplicity of its concept: Get your vessel of choice 750 miles up the Inside Passage from Port Townsend to Ketchikan without using a motor or any outside help. With a route known for large stretches of no wind or howling wind — and occasional short interludes of ‘just right’ wind — the fleet is a weird, wonderful and mongo-eclectic mix of new, old, monohulls, multihulls, ultralights, ultraheavies, and a number of boats that don’t even have sails. Rowing and paddling are allowed, and there are currently eight human-only powered entries, including a guy on a stand-up paddleboard who completed the course last year and is back again in 2019. (Sleep is allowed, and many boats anchor or pull onto a beach at night for some well-earned rest.)

No wind? Lots of weird boats that are . . . paddling? Must be the Race to Alaska.
© 2019 R2AK

There are no handicaps. The first boat to arrive gets $10,000. The second boat, a set of steak knives. Really. (Any Glengarry Glen Ross fans out there?) The rest get to survive, lick their wounds, take three-hour hot showers, consume gallons of cold beer — and, quite often, come back to do it again next year. Go figure.

Multihulls won the first three R2AKs. Last year, the seven-woman team on First Federal’s Sail Like A Girl, a Melges 32 modified with two pedal drives turning small propellers, cleaned everyone’s clock. And leave it to women to return sailing to a ‘gentleman’s sport’ — after expenses, the team donated the remainder of their win to breast cancer research.

As with the IRS, you can be late with your R2AK paperwork, but it will cost you a bit more. Slightly pricier entries will continue to be accepted up until race day.

For more on the Race to Alaska — or just to enjoy some hilarious writing whether you’re going or not — log onto

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