The Race to Alaska – A Capital Adventure

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10846116_10205869419387070_5071435996470900643_nMadcap, foolhardy, dangerous and downright insane – all words used to describe the up-coming Race to Alaska. They are accurate. To take a small boat – any small boat – from Port Townsend, Washington 750 miles (1200 Km) up the Inside Passage to Ketchikan, Alaska is a daunting challenge. And well it should be. Treacherous currents, awful weather, intricate navigation are only a few of the obstacles along this most thorny of paths. To stage a race between those two villages is – well, preposterous, irresponsible, loony.  And to stage this race only for boats without engines – no artificial propulsion! It’s worse, it’s damn near criminal.

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Except….its not….criminal that is. It is marvelous and wonderful and fabulous – it is energizing and inspirational. To walk the docks tonight in Port Townsend as the competitors gather is a refreshing joy. This is Adventure and here be Adventurers!

It IS madcap and foolish. There is no good reason a’tall for perfectly capable and otherwise sane individuals to risk everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – on a race to Alaska. The 10K dollar first prize is generous, and the steak knife second prize is certainly desirable, and I just spent $40 on a tee-shirt, but the prizes are not the motivation nor do they compensate for the risk. That is the point. In a world where sponsorship and money decide the rules – in a world where “adventure” is packaged, marketed, sliced and diced as a commodity – like gasoline or butter or bowling shoes – where thousand passenger cruise ships stake their claim to “adventure” – the Race to Alaska is real, true, Honest to Christ Adventure – with a Capital A.

Look at the entrants. No fools or rank amateurs these. Olympic medalists, National Geographic Explorers, Americas Cup Designers, Professional Boat Builders, Commercial Fishermen, World record paddlers, Intrepid, tousle-headed, tanned, long haired watermen, divers, skiiers, climbers, kayakers, sailors – these people KNOW what they are in for. Many have already done this course on their own…..just for FUN for godsakes!

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They dont need no stinking race to lure them to voyage this coast. They dont need sponsorship, they dont need media. They would do it on their own without a race, without attention, without hype just for the beauty and challenge of the thing. And do it quite competently too, thank you very much.

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Here is the thing – the nugget of it. Port Townsend – this independent off-kilter community – this rare gem – described as a seaside village not yet ruined by cruise ships – thru their Maritime Center and their fierce dedication to small, personal, spectacular sea-going craft – hatched this loopy idea to race to Alaska. That idea was accepted and adopted by the skillful, independent and cantankerous water-men and women of the community. And this insane notion, combined with their ingenuity, skill and passion – circled the globe because it is true…and real…and genuine…and heroic…and fun.

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For the trimaran enthusiast, there is much to be followed. From Mike Leneman’s L7 to a Multi23 to the various homebuilt and production Farriers. Will they sail fast enough to out pace the paddlers? How will they negotiate the tidal currents in the passes – is the  trimaran the preferred platform for such an endeavor? Or will a portaging paddler steal the 10K dollar first prize. Only time will tell.

The wild and wooly forecast for the start tomorrow:

…SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 5 AM PDT THURSDAY…

TONIGHT…W WIND 15 TO 25 KT. WIND WAVES 2 TO 4 FT.

THU…W WIND 5 TO 15 KT…RISING TO 10 TO 20 KT IN THE AFTERNOON. WIND WAVES 1 TO 3 FT.

THU NIGHT…W WIND 20 TO 30 KT…EASING TO 15 TO 25 KT AFTER MIDNIGHT. WIND WAVES 3 TO 5 FT…SUBSIDING TO 2 TO 4 FT.

FRI…W WIND 10 KT…RISING TO 10 TO 20 KT IN THE AFTERNOON. WIND WAVES 1 FT…BUILDING TO 1 TO 3 FT IN THE AFTERNOON.

FRI NIGHT…W WIND 15 TO 25 KT…EASING TO 5 TO 15 KT. WIND WAVES 2 TO 4 FT…SUBSIDING TO 2 FT OR LESS AFTER MIDNIGHT.

Trimaran weather for sure.

You can track your favorite team here: http://tracker.r2ak.com/

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