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An Epic Win

by Eva Seelye

Olympian Greg Barton and teammate Kevin Olney of Team Epic

Team Epic Wins Inaugural SEVENTY48 Race

Just prior to the crack of dawn, four-time Olympian Greg Barton and teammate Kevin Olney of Team Epic paddled their surf ski across Puget Sound taking the “W” in the first SEVENTY48 race. Barton and Olney paddled through the night on this 70-mile journey from Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma to Port Townsend to arrive at 0309 in Port Townsend.

On June 11, paddlers from all currents hit the water on Washington’s newest race, SEVENTY48. A spawn of R2AK (Race to Alaska), which just completed its fourth year, this 70-mile race not only forbids motors like the R2AK, but axes wind power all together. With strictly human-powered strength, racers paddled up the Thea Foss Waterway from Tacoma to Port Townsend in 48 hours using nothing but sheer strength and determination.

Team Epic claimed their $11,700 prize in a ceremony at Pope Marine Park took place on June 13, turning the R2AK Pre-Race Ruckus event into a celebratory jamboree of racing enthusiasts. 117 teams came together to compete for a $100 fee, a turnout that Northwest Maritime Center organizers didn’t expect when they concocted the idea in a beer tent at a boat festival after the R2AK. Race Boss Daniel Evans “thought maybe 30 teams would sign up, $3,000 would be good.” But once Greg Barton and Kevin Olney signed up, Evans said, “Ohhhhh, we’ve got a race for sure.”

Olympian Greg Barton and teammate Kevin Olney of Team Epic

Top: Barton and Olney on the move down near Tacoma (photo: Marty Loken); Left: Arriving in Port Townsend well after dark (at 0309 to be precise); Right: the pair after warming up fresh off of their win. (photo: Zach Carver).

The idea was to “compress crazy stupid into 48 hours and make it a different kind of hard,” as stated on seventy48.com. What’s the best way to conquer the waters of Puget Sound? Just like R2AK, how you get there is up to you (within reason). Racers arrived to the starting line in vessels ranging from fiberglass speed racers to a “kayak” built of ocean debris – the trash boat is just one of the many ways participant Ken Campbell is raising awareness about the effect of plastics in our waterways.

Barton, an Olympic sprint kayaker with gold and bronze medals, as well as a world champion with golds, a silver, and a bronze, matched Olney’s strength well. Only when they reached Marrowstone Bridge in their surf ski did Barton begin feeling the affects of what’s comparable to a 48-hour powerlifting event. Olney got him back on track as they were nearing the Port Townsend City Dock.

With a 7mph average and a total paddle time of 9 hours and 39 minutes, first place went to Team Epic with team 6 by 600 crossing the finish line in a Malalo outrigger canoe 19 minutes later. The monohull and all-female team, Way Too Close, took third; Mamas Go!! came in fourth, and the first paddleboarder, Karl Kruger (who finished the 750-mile R2AK in a paddleboard last year) took home sixth. Olney’s advice to future racers is this: “If you want to be great for 10 hours, you have to put in 1,000 hours of work. Or just get in a boat with an Olympian.”

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