Race to Alaska Organizers Shift Gears

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The premise of Race to Alaska (R2AK) is quite simple; get you and your watercraft of choice 750 miles from Port Townsend, WA to Ketchikan, AK. No motors, no support. If you win, $10,000. Second place? A set of steak knives. Cross the finish line? Overwhelming sense of accomplishment and bragging rights.

R2AK Starting Line (Photo by Liv von Oelreich)

Registration for this year’s event has closed with 47 teams set to take the starting line at 5 AM, June 14. “This is when we start looking at our field of racers for who we think might win and who is going to make a really good story,” says Race Boss Daniel Evans. He is anticipating a slower paced race than in years past. “We don’t have the concentration of larger multi-hulls we’ve had in prior years. There’ll be some fast boats, but the average boat size has gone down.”

Slower race times does not necessarily mean that participants won’t be pushing boundaries though. Many racers are choosing unconventional ways to paddle the 750 mile race, and in turn, compromising their race times. For example, Team Extreme Sobriety will be laying on his stomach, paddling the entire race in a prone position. “Yeah, and he intends to ride a bicycle from Ketchikan back home on Bainbridge Island.” Daniel added.

“We also have a 40′ international offshore racing boat from the 80’s (Superfriends), a team trying to be the first to complete the race by pedal power alone (Take Me to the Volcano), 2 teams returning (PT Watercraft and Trak Kayaks) are trying to beat the world records they set for fastest solo and fastest kayak with no sail, and another Stand up Paddler (Torrent) who is using the race to fuel a documentary to raise awareness about Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD in veterans. There is no end to the stories this year. And the Tracker is a good place to start.” Says Evans. The Tracker that Evans is talking about is a free to view map that allows viewers to track teams from online.

Evans and a media film crew will be recording and interviewing the teams on their journey to Alaska. “We go where we have to go to get the shots and stay up editing and cutting while the boat moves to the next location. And it’s during that time that we start to see the stories of the race grow and become tangible,” says Evans.

For more information, go to https://r2ak.com.

SEVENTY48

Preceding the R2AK, will be the inaugural boat race, SEVENTY48, which will have teams go 70 miles in 48 hours or less with no motors, support, or sails. The race starts in Tacoma on June 11 at 5:30 PM and ends in Port Townsend. The first team to cross the finish line racks in $12,000.

Perhaps it’s the winner-takes-all, hefty prize money that has encouraged so many teams to commit themselves to such a tough race. Race organizers only anticipated around 30 teams, but when registration ended, they tallied a total of 121 teams with 187 racers. “We were shocked,” said Evans about the number of teams. “Who thought so many people would even want to subject themselves to this kind of abuse.”

As for such the unusual start time, Evans said, “Teams were talking about racing without stopping, so we thought it’d be good for them to race through the night. This isn’t meant to be easy.”

With the race itinerary being dauntingly uninviting, Evans said that he wanted the rest of the event to be accessible to both spectators and participants. “We try to make everything free. We’ll have a huge party we’re calling the Pre-Funk on June 10 in front of the Social Bar & Grill and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. People will be able to meet the racers, listen to some live music, and, if they get in line early enough, they’ll be able to hear a couple of legends talk about their lives. And that’s free too.”

The fabled legends that Evans is referring to are Karl Kruger and Natalia Cohen. Kruger was the first person to Stand up Paddleboard the entire 750 miles of the Race to Alaska. Cohen is one of the six women team, who in January 2016 was the first all-female team to row unsupported across the Pacific Ocean. (Check out the documentary about it, Losing Sight of Shore. It’s a great ego check.)

Paddler and Guest Speaker Natalia Cohen (Photo by Natalia Cohen)

“In addition to the Pre-Funk, we will be hosting a clubhouse at the finish line where viewers can hang out, have a drink, and follow the race on the tracker.”

For more information, go to https://www.seventy48.com.

SUPing Awesome

Get inspired by a panel of pioneers who are expanding the possibilities in the SUP community, with the SUPing Awesome event on Wednesday, June 13. The event will include a line up of paddleboard legends sharing their personal tales of adventure and adversity in the sport.

For more information and ticket sales go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/suping-awesome-tickets-45982411631.