R2AK: Wacky Races on Water

The Race to Alaska is a race. To Alaska. The rules are simple — boat, sail, canoe the 750 miles from Port Townsend BC to Ketchikan, Alaska. The first one to arrive wins.

The catch? No power! You can sail, you can paddle, you can row. You just can’t use power!

I learned about the Race (known as R2AK) when we visited Alaska on last year’s cruise. Since then I have read much more about the race, the entrants and followed the updates as the teams get ready to start the 2019 race on June 3rd.

The first , warm up leg, is from Port Townsend, Washington (North of Seattle) to Victoria BC in Canada — a straight 40 mile dash across the water.

The second stage starts June 6th from Victoria. From there it is a 710 mile race to Ketchikan, AK. Only teams that completed the first stage will be eligible to do the full course.

Teams can use any form of boat that has no engine which still leaves a range of craft to complete the race.

Last year’s race was won, for the first time by the all woman crew of Team Sail Like a Girl in a single hulled yacht. The team are back for another try at the race but will face some crazy competition.

I’ve been watching the new team announcements on the R2AK Facebook page and it is looking more and more like Wacky Races on the Water. In addition to the ‘traditional boats’ there have been some crazy alternatives. This year’s team ‘Shut Up and Drive’ are supplementing wind power with pedal power, lashing a few bike frames to the deck to turn propellers on those less windy days.

This year will also see a Hawaiian outrigger sailing canoe joining the fray. I will quote the website entry for a flavour of the entry and the wonderful spirit the R2AK organisers share;

Their boat is no less incredible. The personal OC-3 pacific sailing canoe of Nick Beck , Hawaii based legendary designer of outrigger canoes. Since the 1960s he’s been creating ever-improving designs of outriggers that consistently hard charge the big boys like the Molokai Channel Race. Fast (under sail they can rip along at 18+ knots), wet (like buckets in the face, all the time), these boats are the space age polymer rendition of the craft that took Pacific Islanders thousands of miles across the later named Pacific…

In 2017 ‘Team Heart of Gold’ entered with a reinforced, stand up paddle board. Yes, you heard that right! A stand up paddle board. It may be worth mentioning at this point that they are traversing the Inner Passageway from Canada, north to Alaska. This may be in the Alaskan summer but, it’s definitely not paddle boarding on a Tropical Hawaiian Atoll. The team didn’t manage to complete the race but still achieved 100 miles of stand up paddling. I can’t even stand up on a paddle board, let alone paddle 100 miles!

The lack of SUP success clearly hasn’t dissuaded others from trying. This year will see another paddler, Team IaqVelo going for trophy.

The Paddle Board example, and the overall positivity of the race and race commentary (pick any page on their site and you’ll be chuckling) is why I have been fascinated by R2AK. I don’t dream of entering but I applaud anyone that does. There is still a few weeks until the race start but check out their Facebook page as more crazy teams sign up for one heck of an adventure.

Main Image taken from the R2AK Website.