Race to Alaska – Go the Girls

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Michelle Boroski and Jen Bates stood atop Grand Targhee Mountain on a crystal clear hot August day. The grey-blue Tetons stood silent before them in the sunshine. Aside from small patches of dirty snow on the mountains, there was no water to be seen anywhere. For the two sailors, the ocean never seemed so far away. They had a big decision to make.

 

“I think we should do it.”

“It’s going to be cold, wet and dangerous. Remember the last time?

“I know but I still think we should do it. What have we got to lose?”

Only everything, thought Jen.

But her daughter would sure think she was a bad-ass if she pulled it off. And crazy Michelle would probably go without her anyway. Jen refused to be left behind. Not this time.

She heard herself say – “OK, Lets do it. Lets go.”

Michelle turned, said – “Great! We’ll need a trimaran. ”

Thus was born Team Sistership – four women daring to sail a Corsair 27 Trimaran from Port Townsend Washington to Ketchican in the second Race to Alaska (R2AK).

Port Townsend is a tidy little town on the south coast of the Straits of Juan de Fuca in Washington state.  A quiet Victorian place (except on Halloween), it is home to wooden boat artisans, fishermen, sailors, riggers, writers, spirit guides, and the loopy visionaries at the Northwest Maritime Center. The loopy visionaries who decided to chance it and run another (the second) Race to Alaska (R2AK) adventure.

Adventure. Too often, when we’re young, it’s taken for granted. As we get older, adventure gets sidelined by the obligations of life lived correctly, sanely – carefully. The careful life strangles and constricts – the soul becomes restless, something is missing. But then, an idea catches hold,  the old excitement returns, maps and charts are consulted, the idea grows. Another adventure beckons and life is grand again. For Team Sistership – that idea is the R2AK.

Team Sistership is Skipper Michelle  Boroski a physician’s assistant and professional sailor from Ventura California; Jen Bates – full time Mom, Yoga instructor, power lifter and an ex-rigger and sail maker from Port Townsend; and Annie Myers Lieutenant on a Seattle fire-boat, diver and house builder. A fourth crew member is yet to be announced.

No strangers to adventure, the Sisters accomplished burly offshore sailing deliveries – while pregnant. They have been or are professional sailors, riggers, fire-women, river-runners, divers, skiers, sail-makers and health professionals. They have lived full healthy lives out of doors with no apologies and no excuses. They have pushed their own limits and in doing so, have expanded the boundaries for all women.

Not done yet, they are all on the senior side of 50 years old.

Team Sistership - Captain Michelle, Crew Annie and 1st Mate Jen

Team Sistership – Captain Michelle, Crew Annie and 1st Mate Jen

The Sisters are determined to participate in the R2AK to inspire others – in particular young women – by their example. In the words of Michelle Boroski – “We hope to empower and improve the self-image crisis of younger girls. We want to show women of all ages they can continue to compete and challenge themselves throughout their lives.”

There are serious hurdles. The boat needs upgrading – lots of upgrading. Colligo rigging is to be installed, new sails and running rigging purchased, deck leaks found and sealed, solar panels installed, a rowing package sourced and installed. Just to get to the line by June 23 is a daunting task.

Rosie

None of them has ever sailed a trimaran competitively before and they are in awe of the Corsair’s ability to sail fast in light air. The F27 community has taken notice and given support and advice. Owners and racers have called unbidden with tips and go-fast hints. But the R2AK is different from any other race, and Michelle has it right when she says “In my mind this race is more one of endurance and decision making, than racing around the markers. We have a quote on board “Men may be stronger but it’s women who endure””

To prepare for the physical demands of the race the team has accelerated their normal physical training and augmented it with long distance bicycle rides. They will also enter local sail boat races in and around Port Townsend this spring, and hope to participate in the Swiftsure race in May.

The biggest challenge facing them now is funding. Estimating $20K for upgrades and gear required to get to the line, they have raised approximately $5400. They hope for corporate sponsorship (taking aim at Proctor and Gamble with its “….Like a Girl” campaign) but have yet to score. Their original intent was for a corporate sponsor to fully back them, and then – after they won the race – to donate the boat and gear for the use of any and all future womens teams that cared to take on the R2AK challenge. It hasnt quite worked out that way, and the Sisters are walking a thin financial line. They follow in the eternal wake of all vagabond voyagers. To quote Sterling Hayden: “To be truly challenging, a voyage,like a life,must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse.” No routine traverse this. 

The F27 is a tough, capable boat with the ability to win this race with a little luck. She will go well in light air, can put her shoulder down and take on big seas and wind. She can run 10 to 15 knots all day with the right crew and conditions. The Sisters have the boat and the – ahem – cojones to pull off a win.

Team Sistership races to inspire and challenge women to overcome hurdles and never ever give up. In doing so, they inspire the rest of us – male, female, old and young. Go the Girls!

Take a look at Team Sistership and toss them a couple of bucks. Help a sister out would you?

More information on their campaign can be found at http://www.sistershipr2ak.com/.