With a weather forecast “between seasick and dangerous” in the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the next two days, the non-motorized sailing and rowing Race to Alaska expedition teams will have a little more time to get from Port Townsend to Victoria. The “proving grounds,” which is the first section of the, race normally has a 24-hour deadline, but the race management has extended it by 24 hours.
The race, returning after two years of a Covid pandemic hiatus, starts Monday at 5 am Pacific Time. Racers will need to finish in Victoria no later than 5 pm on Wednesday in order to qualify for the next leg, from Victoria to Ketchikan, 710 miles.
“We’re back. 829 days since the world was cancelled by the murder sneeze, R2AK Central is shaking off the cobwebs and getting back in the saddle for a long delayed year of engineless hard charging to Alaska,” the organization wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
The boats used in the race are often fitted with both sails and oars for those times the wind dies down. Any boat will do, so long as it does not have a motor. The winner gets $10,000 and the second place finisher gets a set of steak knives.
Teams typically have fun names, such as “Fashionably Late,” or “High Sea Drifters,” and the organization has a saucy description of its return to the epic adventure-based race:
“Deep in R2AK’s command bunker we’re Rip Van Winkling our way out of forced hibernation. Our beards are a little longer, jumpsuits a little tighter than they were when we hung them up back in 2019. While R2AK Central is trying to remember where all the light switches are, both streets of Port Townsend are a sea of boat trailers, foul weather geared pedestrians, and R2AK t-shirted tourists and volunteers. The marinas and boat launches are bumper to bumper with pedal-driven and paddle-wheeled weirdo craft, the movie theater is filled with the R2AK documentary. This is definitely happening—three years and finally since the last one.”
This isn’t for everyone, the organization admits.
“It’s like the Iditarod, on a boat, with a chance of drowning, being run down by a freighter, or eaten by a grizzly bear. There are squalls, killer whales, tidal currents that run upwards of 20 miles an hour, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.”
R2AK is based on the “hardest kind of simplicity. You, a boat, a starting gun. $10,000 if you finish first, a set of steak knives if you’re second. Cathartic elation if you can simply complete the course. R2AK is a self-supported race with no supply drops and no safety net. Any boat without an engine can enter.”
In 2019, 45 teams were accepted and 25 finished.