R2AK 2019 Gets Underway
The Chaotic Annual
Unpowered Quest to Ketchikan Kicks Off June 3
Everyone’s favorite scramble to Ketchikan on anything that floats is back, kicking off on June 3 and ending when the last team crosses the finish line or gets knocked out by the sweep boat. Teams will compete in everything from state-of-the-art sailboats to one-person kayaks, with the only rule being wind or human power only. With no set course, teams can only set their eyes on the horizon and sail/paddle/row through whatever is thrown at them.
The pre-race Ruckus starts on Sunday June 2 at the Pope Marine Park and Maritime Center in Port Townsend. Party attendees can meet the racers and take a look at the wild fleet of vessels about to tackle the trip to Alaska. The party starts at 1200 hours, with food and a beer garden sponsored by local brewer Port Townsend Brewing. And for anyone who wants to remember their sprint to Alaska anytime they look in the mirror, don’t forget to get your free R2AK tattoo. Live music and sailor stories will set the mood for the racers’ last day on dry land.
The race attracts a certain type of person, the kind who thinks being sleep-deprived and sprayed with frozen water for a week sounds like a good time. Last year’s winner, the Bainbridge Island, Washington-based Team Sail Like a Girl is returning this year with a few changes to the roster, including Nicola Henderson, who just finished circumnavigating the globe as a skipper in the Clipper Round the World Race.
Team Extremely Insain, aka Alex de Sain, is coming all the way from the Netherlands to try his luck at completing the race on a stand up paddleboard, a feat first performed by Karl Kruger in 2017. De Sain is a former Dutch Special Forces soldier with sea survival and lifeguard training under his belt. He’s also already paddled the 750-mile Yukon River Quest, so the R2AK could be a piece of cake, or not. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
While Northwest Yachting’s Norris Comer will not be participating in this year’s race, his former teammate Li Sung from 2018’s Team Wright Yachts will be making another attempt this year as part of Team Narwhal. Team Narwhal will be making their run in a blue Farrier 32, armed for low-wind situations with two rowing stations, two pedal drives, and something labeled only as ‘the secret weapon.’
Tackling the race in a 116-year old Lancashire Nobby is Team Ziska: Sail Like a Luddite. Ziska’s restoration was completed just a few months ago by shipwright and team member Stanford Siver. The boat was built to sail off the coast of Northern Ireland and has already sailed around the world in a past life, so a trip to Ketchikan might not be such a big deal, although just her rigging weighs more than any other boat in the race.
These are just a handful of the dozens of vessels making their way north in this year’s race. Check out the race’s website at r2ak.com to see the full list of racers and their profiles. Race fans can watch the race tracker online so they’ll always know who’s leading the pack. Good luck to all this year’s teams and safe travels.