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Race to Alaska Begins Thursday

The big races to Hawaii — the Singlehanded TransPac, Vic-Maui Race, and Pacific Cup — don’t start until July, but this very Thursday a different kind of Pacific passage race will depart Port Townsend, WA. At 6 a.m., a motley assortment of 56 craft (most with sails but some without) will point their bows toward Victoria, BC. Their second challenge will be to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Their third challenge will be getting into and out of Victoria without sailing (it’s forbidden in the harbor). The fourth challenge, for 44 of the teams, will be to sail the rest of the way to Ketchikan, AK, through the Inside Passage to complete the Race to Alaska.

Last year’s Stage 2 start in Victoria wasn’t exactly exciting. These trimarans were among the fastest boats last year, the other being a Hobie 33.

© Nick Reid

"But wait!" you say. "What about the first challenge?"

Well, that would be surviving the Pre-Race Ruckus this Wednesday from 3 to 8 p.m. The Northwest Maritime Center (organizers of the race) and Pope Marine Park will be the setting for a send-off party that invites guests to "Let loose like you’re about to set sail for Alaska… with people who are actually about to set sail for Alaska!" Admission is free. Check out some of the boats, enjoy some food and drinks, dance to the sounds of Down North, and put some faces to the tracker icons you’ll be seeing during the race. "The Pre-Race Ruckus is all the spirit of the Race to Alaska, 10% of the danger," promises the invitation.

Yes, Team Later Dudes really plans to race this plywood contraption to Alaska.

© 2016 Race to Alaska

We’ve told you about the Race to Alaska before, but in case you’ve forgotten, the competitors must sail, paddle and/or row 750 miles without an engine or outside support. No coach boats in this race! Whoever gets there first wins $10,000. Second place gets a set of steak knives. Fifteen boats completed the full course in the first R2AK last year, and every one of them set a ‘World Record’. Don’t believe it? Check out the results here.

Team MAD Dog’s cat, a Marstrom 32, is known as Miller Racing while competing on San Francisco Bay.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In a prologue update organizers reported that "Port Townsend is the only place where on any given day you’ll see multiple sailboats rowing around the waterfront. Rowing." They also report that the fastest entry in the race dropped out last week during the delivery north from Los Angeles.  "Team Tritium Racing experienced multiple failures: foiling daggerboards, rudders, maybe more, then limped their way into cell range to call off their 73-ft campaign. No one hurt, the boat will live to fight another day, but with a different crew and a different race." The cat had put into Santa Barbara for repairs before continuing on north. Then they hit 30-knot winds at Point Conception and broke their bow sprit.

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