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Race to Alaska Starts This Week

Thirty-seven teams are poised in Port Townsend for the start of the fourth annual Race to Alaska (R2AK), which kicks off on Thursday. ‘Eclectic’ doesn’t even come close to describing the fleet.

With the main rules for the 750-mile northerly trek from Port Townsend to Ketchikan being "No motor, no support," anything else goes. And anything else is going. There are seven muscle-only-powered entries, including one SUP (standup paddleboard), several kayaks, and a rigless Farrier trimaran powered by oars and a pedal-driven prop. Two entries include a couple of hybrids — what we’d call ‘sail assisted’ human-powered craft: a Hobie Mirage and an interesting 19-ft boat called an Angus Rowcruiser. The latter is coming all the way from Connecticut — and is racing in the R2AK for the third time.

Team Kairos — solo sailor Joachim Roesler and his 19-ft Angus Rowcruiser — are coming all the way from Connecticut to participate in the R2AK… for the third time.

© 2018 Race to Alaska

As far as real sailboats, that too is a hodgepodge. What we’d call the ‘serious boats’ include several Corsair trimarans, a couple of Olson 30s, a J/88, a 34-ft racing proa, a Melges 24, a Santa Cruz 27, and last year’s solo record-setter, Team PT Watercraft’s Gougeon 32 catamaran, which completed the course in 9 days, 6 hours. (The all-out course record is 3 days, 20 hours and change, set in 2016 by Team Maddog, a 32-ft cat with three crew.)

Team Zisko’s 38-ft prawner was built the same year the Wright Brothers achieved powered flight.

© 2018 Race to Alaska

Rounding out the fleet are beach cats, daysailers, trailer sailers, an old 1970’s IOR battlewagon, and the grande dame, Team Ziska’s 38-ft (52 LOA with the bowsprit) Morecambe Bay Prawner, which is just what it sounds like: a 12-ton, engineless, wooden gaff cutter built in 1903. 

Pretty much all the sailboats — including the prawner — have been outfitted with some sort of oar or pedal-power arrangement to keep them moving when the wind goes away.

Team PT Watercraft’s Gougeon 32 (and skipper Russell Brown) holds the current solo record for the R2AK.

© 2018 Race to Alaska

Most teams are homeported in the Pacific Northwest, but others come from all over, including South Carolina, Ohio, Idaho, Florida, New York, Colorado, Wisconsin and as far away as France. The sole California entry this year is Team Dreamcatcher’s Olson 30 from Piedmont. Lawrence Olsen, Michael Donovan, Brian Garber and Lukas Bridgeman will sail/row the little sled.

The R2AK is raced in two stages, one little and one big. On June 14, the fleet will take off from Port Townsend for the short 40-mile Leg 1 crossing to Victoria. At high noon on June 17, they’ll start the big leg — 710 miles up the Inside Passage to Ketchikan.

First boat in gets $10,000. Second, a set of steak knives. Everyone else gets the satisfaction of surviving. For the rest of the story (including some of the most hysterical bios we’ve ever read), and to follow the race, go to

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Bay Area sailor Terry Betts picked up a copy of the May issue of Latitude 38 at the Marina Bay harbormaster building in Richmond, only to find a loose card falling out with a photo of Crissy Fields stating, ‘Your Lucky Day.’