The first day and first leg of the 2018 Race to Alaska is done and in the books. Taking place in the 40 miles of open water between Port Townsend and Victoria, B.C., the first leg serves to separate the competitors from the dreamers. Imagining you will make the 750-mile journey to Alaska through extreme chop and freezing water on a boat made out of pool-noodles, and actually doing it are very different.
This year’s first leg was rough, but it could have been worse, and has been worse in years past; extreme weather in previous iterations of the race have battered boats so badly that many teams drop out before even making it to Victoria. Last year, a total calm gave the win to a row boat and lured everyone else 15 miles offshore before a wind wall blew most back to the start line or into each other; maydays and collisions got the attention of the Canadian Coast Guard.
This year a few were forced to drop out earlier than they would have liked. Ex-Marine Steve Rhodes of Team Extreme Sobriety planned to prone-paddle to Alaska on a 20-foot SUP to raise awareness of homelessness and addiction. Agitation of old injuries forced his premature departure, while malfunctions forced Team Fly Baby Fly, racing on a Proa, to call for a tug, thus disqualifying them from the rest of the race. Team Waterworld Impending, sailing on a Tornado, suffered a lost prop and fouled line and then hit the beach to make repairs, but all in vain.
More fortunate first days were had by Team PT Watercraft, who cruised over the finish line in a Gougeon 32 catamaran well ahead of the pack with a near-record time of four hours and nine minutes. The rest of the pack was led by second place finisher Team Sail Like a Girl, sailing on a Melges 32 – even before the start, this tight team were sailing rings around the safety boats, and they looked fast from the get-go.
Team Wright Yachts, racing in a brand-new Corsair 970 Sport and featuring Norris Comer of Northwest Yachting fame, finished 9th out of a fleet of 40-ish vessels. Now the first leg is important, but doesn’t count towards overall finishing times, so victory is still up for grabs. Good luck to all the racers and may the best boat win.
You can follow along at R2ak.com.