Race to Alaska teams begin 710-mile trek
PORT ANGELES – Some people take a cruise ship to Alaska. Others steal. Road warriors drive down the Alcan Highway.
But only the truly intrepid – and perhaps a little crazy – sail or paddle 710 miles to get there.
The 32 teams that left Victoria in the second leg of the Race to Alaska on Thursday are doing it the hard way. No engine, no assistance and certainly no business class amenities as they head to their destination of Ketchikan.
The start of the second stage began in Victoria’s Inner Harbor at noon when the sound of a car horn sent teams trotting from the causeway to their moored boats. Because navigation is not permitted inside the breakwater, the sailboat teams had to use pedaling to get out of the harbor. Teams of kayaks and rowboats without these restrictions quickly paddled to the front of the pack.
The high winds and big waves that had created chaos for many teams on the first two days of the first leg of Port Townsend eased considerably on Wednesday.
The 19 teams that left that morning made it to Victoria before the 5pm deadline, with Australian team Team Fire Escape being the last to ring a bell on the quay, signaling their arrival.
There is no official route for teams to follow when running north, except for a mandatory checkpoint in Bella Bella, BC. A checkpoint at Seymour Narrows in the Discovery Channel between the mainland and Vancouver Island was eliminated this year, allowing teams to navigate the Pacific Ocean. side of the island.
Unlike the first leg through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there are no support ships to help teams that get into trouble on the leg to Alaska. Race organizers are working with the Canadian Coast Guard, Marine Communications and Traffic Services Canada, amateur radio networks and an online tracker to monitor teams.
While teams can shop for supplies along the way, eat a restaurant, do laundry, or get their boats repaired, they’re otherwise on their own. This means no pre-planned food deliveries, arrangements for water replenishment, and private support boat rentals. The goal is to be autonomous and independent as much as possible.
The first team to reach Ketchikan wins $10,000 cash which is nailed to be a piece of wood, and second place receives a set of steak knives.
To follow the action, go to https://r2ak.com.
Journalist Paula Hunt can be reached at [email protected]