Madcap, 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.
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!
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.
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.
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/