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R2AK: Alaska or Bust

If you haven’t heard of the most outrageous boat race in North America, it’s time to get with the program. It’s the Race to Alaska, a 750-mile epic up the Inside Passage from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska, with a stopover in Victoria, British Columbia.

Beset with ferocious currents, unpredictable weather, orcas and of course bears, the racecourse is a tough one. Rules for the race are simple—any kind of boat is allowed, as long as it’s powered by wind, muscle or a combination of both. The winner gets $10,000 in cash; the runner-up gets a set of steak knives.

All are welcome: this year, the 65 starters in the second running of the race included paddleboards, kayaks, a radio-controlled drone and a motley collection of sailboats the likes of which has seldom been seen in one place.

The organizers, the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, describe the race as a waterborne Iditarod. Only 15 of the 35 starters finished the inaugural race in 2015. This year, the last of the 27 finishers arrived in Ketchikan on July 23, a month after the start.

The R2AK, as it’s known, is tailor-made for multihulls. Small trimarans abound, because they’re tough, fast and you can row or—in the case of the popular Hobie Mirages—pedal them. There was also some heavier metal on the startline this time around, including Mad Dog, a bright red tweaked-up Marstrom M32 cat from San Francisco, which smoked the competition to finish the race’s 700-mile second stage in 92 hours and claim the $10,000 first prize.

Behind her was a medley of monos and multis, the latter including a number of F27s, F28s and the inevitable Hobies. One of the dropouts was Taniwha, a souped-up F32 SXRC tri skippered by ocean racing star Ryan Breymaier, who had originally intended on competing aboard Tritium, John Sangmeister’s ORMA 60 tri. The big tri was damaged on the way north from Southern California, but watch out if she makes the start next year.

If you fancy a crack at the 2017 R2AK, visit r2ak.com. And never mind the grizzlies…

MHS Fall 2016

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