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by Edward Gossett - Bremerton, Washington - USA

Misconceptions and Myths about the Race to Alaska (R2AK)

The #1 best place to get updated R2AK info or watch the events unfold live via a spot tracking map is which also includes the forums.

Before we get started this is a 750 mile race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan Alaska. The race is designed to spread the excitement about small human and sail powered boat adventures, and remind everyone you can do it on almost any budget.

The R2AK does guarantee in writing on the front page of the website: blisters, mild hypothermia, and the cathartic elation that comes from accomplishing something others would call impossible.

Myth: Tons of signups for the 1st stage from Port Townsend to Victoria.
Fact: 15 teams made the registration deadline, and are listed on the R2AK website.  Former registered participants might have received the race packet after initial registration that included the disclaimer "with a chance of drowning... or being run down by a freighter". Personally after my wife read the race packet it was almost easier to skip the deadline for payment and gracefully bow out.

Myth: The R2AK will have safety boats all the way to Alaska.
Fact: Only the 1st stage which is designed as a crucible/filter will have 2-5 safety boats, and 2-5 Coast Guard Auxiliary boats present.

A 'sweep boat' will leave PT Townsend June 24, or when the first racer crosses the finish line, which ever happens first. Quote "Whenever it leaves, the boat will begin its trip north covering roughly 75 miles every day and hailing boats that it passes. Racers will have the option of getting a ride, or continuing the journey on their own after being tapped out of the race management structure."

Myth: Because teams are launching from the water and not the high-water mark on a beach that this could lead to a nautical arms race with big money boats.
Fact: No motors, self supported, and no supply drops means this is virtually impossible. Big expensive boats require support boats/teams, and crews. In this race the more people onboard equals the more supplies you have to carry, and Murphy's law will go into overdrive. Every team will have the same opportunity along the route to pull into port, and walk up to a store during normal business hours to buy supplies.

Myth: No boat classes create disparity on the results.
Fact: Even in the races with classes, the overall winner is still hailed as being the fastest on the course. The kayakers, mono's, and multi-hull's will all know who was the best among them without requiring formal classes to fall into. Because of the time of year and the unknown conditions along the race course ANYONE could win, just like in other small craft challenges. In heavy weather the mono-hull's will do much better (multi's take a beating), in moderate weather the multi-hulls will go fast, and in light to no air while the heavier boats are rowing, the fast light kayaks and other human powered only will probably pull way ahead.

From the R2AK website quote " first year of the race will be one that sets a ton of world records for the first officially timed passage of this stretch of coast, and we’ll be dividing that up into as many classes as possible so every kind of best can get its day in the sun. Youngest, oldest, smallest, sail, oars, kayak, SUP- all worthy of best in class awards."

Hard Facts:

  1. The R2AK has been vetted through Homeland Security, the US and Canadian Coast Guard, US Navy and immigration on both sides of the border, including local Indian tribes/reservations along the route.
  2. The R2AK has at least 10 big sponsors including all the people that gave to the Kickstarter campaign to fund it.
  3. Quote "How do I not get run over by a freighter?" is on the R2AK website. Each boat will have a SPOT tracker and VHF radio. It also brings up being closer to shoreline could reduce the exposure for smaller vessels that require less depth than big ships; however, then you are closer to the bears.
  4. Bear safety links are on the R2AK website, and if you’re scared after reading that information, considered talking to a professional psychologist, or your favorite Jelly stone park ranger to help you get over your new fear.
  5. Driftwood floating in the water is covered on the R2AK website, and personally it’s not a good feeling when you hit a "bump" and you centerboard pops up, as and something is bumping along under your hull. The preferred time for this is obviously in the dark when several teams plan on travelling.

Best Fact: $10,000 to the 1st place winner.

Each racer has had the good PR people at the NW Maritime center write a nice tongue in cheek piece about them. I will be going alone in a Core Sound 17 on the 1st stage and this is what they wrote:

Team Foggy Sailing’s watery trajectory is one of the few we’ve seen that takes a bell shape curve from sailing canoes on Colorado lakes, through navy training and submarines, then returning to surface sailing small boats in a big way- the biggest was the 2012 run at the 2012 Everglades Ultra Marathon.

Their name might be Team Foggy Sailing, but Ed has a singular clarity about preparing for the worst: personal skills, getting his boat ready for whatever the sea might throw at him, emergency supplies, and at least a few end of days style scenarios. He’s a medic not a doctor, but he considers himself a prepper and he and his lady work to prepare for the worst. He’s a prepper, she’s a prepper, and after going over his logic we don’t know why we wouldn’t want to be a prepper too.

Ed also has the distinction of being at the very table, at the very beer tent, at the very moment the R2AK was conceived. We’re going to skip past all of the shudder worthy possibilities about the moment of conception- we’ll just call him “family”.

Welcome to the R2AK Team Foggy Sailing, best of luck on your preparations.

See you guys on the water,


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