The Captivating Race to Alaska (R2AK)

Few races have captured our imagination here at SAIL as much as the recently announced Race to Alaska (R2AK), which kicks off on June 4 in Port Townsend, Washington, and takes competitors to Ketchikan, Alaska, a distance of 750 miles, with a one-day pit stop in Victoria, British Columbia.
Author:
Publish date:
 The shape of speed? Organizers expect a variety of boat types to take the challenge

The shape of speed? Organizers expect a variety of boat types to take the challenge

Few races have captured our imagination here at SAIL as much as the recently announced Race to Alaska (R2AK), which kicks off on June 4 in Port Townsend, Washington, and takes competitors to Ketchikan, Alaska, a distance of 750 miles, with a one-day pit stop in Victoria, British Columbia. The R2AK is open to any vessel that doesn’t carry auxiliary power or rely on a shore-based support team. Otherwise, racers can bring unlimited crew, provided each person completes the entire course. The only other major requirement is that all entrants must finish before the “sweep boat” arrives in Ketchikan. The event is being run—and insured—by the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend and was the brainchild of Jake Beattie, the center’s executive director. We recently caught up with Beattie to learn more.

 The race’s executive director, Jake Beattie

The race’s executive director, Jake Beattie

SAIL: What was the inspiration for the R2AK? 

Jake Beattie: Like all good ideas, it happened over a beer, at the 2013 Port Townsend Wooden Boat festival. There’s a group of “go small, go now and go big” sailors here, and we were talking about how we could propel the thing we love into the greater conscious. Ideas were pitched, but I walked away thinking that there wasn’t enough sizzle. So with Josh Colvin and Collin Angus, we decided to “X-Prize it”: Nail $10,000 to a tree and see who gets it. We want to keep it as simple and wild as possible. We tried to stay true to this principle, and we have a committed board at the Northwest Maritime Center.

SAIL: What do you think are the biggest risks for the racers?

map-alaska-2_0

JB: Over-confidence, fatigue and cold water. There’s shipping traffic, but it’s visible, and you can use VHF. I think that the biggest risk is for someone who’s unfamiliar with big tides and cold water. I worry a lot about the amount of driftwood…and there are a lot of bears on the beaches. There’s a lot more “damn the torpedoes” in the race than yacht-club energy. There are a lot of unknowns—that’s the riddle.

SAIL: What about the biggest challenges?

JB: I think that fatigue will be the biggest factor. It’s a long enough race that it’s not safe to gut it out. In my small-boat adventures, I’ve learned that fate, irony and hubris are what do the most damage.

SAIL: What percentage of the starters do you expect to see finish?

JB: I’m excited to monitor the people who opt-out after Victoria, and to also see who opts in for the second leg after completing Leg 1. One of the beautiful things about the course is that there are a lot of chances to opt out in the first 300 miles, from Port Townsend to Port Hardy. That helps me to not freak out so much!

Images courtesy of R2AK/Jake Beattie

Related

01-Opener-P1090199-copy

The Great Schooner Race

I arrived in Rockland, Maine, on an early afternoon in July with a backpack, my camera and little else. Though traveling to an unfamiliar place to race with a crew of strangers has been a common theme in my sailing career, I had no idea what to expect from the massive wood and ...read more

westonsquallpic

Cruising: Camaraderie in the Squall

Darkness had fallen and the howling wind almost drowned out the voices coming over the VHF radio. “Lights on! Blow horns!” “Make noise to alert the crew!” “Shine the spotlight on the cat by the shore, it’s dragging dangerously near our bow.” These were calls to action, not ...read more

Lagoon-50a

Boat Review: Lagoon 50

Anyone under the impression that change in today’s production catamarans is about little more than cosmetics needs to check out the Lagoon 50—an all-new design that went on to become the winner in the 40 to 50ft cruising multihull category in SAIL’s 2019 Best Boats awards. ...read more

shutterstock_543237994

The Slow Route to Cabo

Each November, cruising boats start leaving California for “a winter of fun in the sun down Mexico way.” And having spent the summer and autumn on a leisurely passage down the West Coast on board Distant Drummer, our Liberty 458 sloop, my husband, Neil, and I were now in San ...read more

MHS-GMR_3549

New Multihulls 2018

Farrier F-22 New Zealander Ian Farrier ushered in a new genre of sailing with his folding-ama trailerable trimarans, the best-known of which are the Corsair designs. Farrier’s last project before he passed away last year was this sweet little tri. Available in three versions, ...read more

shutterstock_373701682

Cruising: Island Comeback

The U.S. Virgins Islands have surged back from the devastation of the 2017 hurricanes, with new infrastructure plans that will benefit charterers and cruisers alike. After hurricanes Irma and Maria roared through the Leeward Islands in September 2017, it was impossible to ...read more