When the R2AK fell out of our collective heads it was as much a challenge to the world as it was a riddle without precedent – simple challenge that contained a set of questions as wild and full of potential as the tree we nailed the wad of bills to. Given the right tools in the right hands and the right conditions it could be anything. With each team that entered, with each starting gun, broken spar, blister and small craft warning the teams of the R2AK whittled away at the infinite and the truth of the race began to take shape.
With each word that hits the page Team Elsie Piddock is off of Prince Rupert and making steady progress through the northern night, sailing out of that unknown infinite and barring catastrophe will create the first conclusion of this experiment – some project that a finish at a metaphorically auspicious dawn. It’s an exciting time, the R2AK Ketchikan HQ is setting our alarms for 4am, and admittedly a bit nervous about that, given their track record of beating our predictions by a wide margin. Our 4am trip to the tracker won’t be the only one in town, just like the crowd that arose obscenely early to send off the fleet from Port Townsend an impossibly long week ago, all around Ketchikan people will forget the urge to hit the snooze bar and trundle to their computers to make sure they can do the same; and they are probably not alone. Team Elsie Piddock has amazed people all over the world, started countless conversations that either started or ended with “Can you (choose your expletive) believe them? They are crushing/killing/owning/doing it!”- these words seem to precede a wide eyed expression, a shaking of the head in disbelief, and then returning to look at the tracker. The exact words and expletives might vary, and the accents and languages change with the nationality of the one offering it, but the sentiment was the same worldwide: How the crap are they doing that? Starting in a vast unknown filled with expectations, the crew of Team Elsie Piddock has amazed us day after day.
Whether they sail into Ketchikan at dawn or noon, today or tomorrow, there is little doubt that soon the R2AK will have its first definitive. The first concrete for the legions of armchair experts and open minded enthusiasts to base their next bet on the Swagger Wall (TM) or forum-based “I told you so”.
There will be more concrete in the days to come. First monohull, first catamaran, first beach cat, first canoe, first solo, best adventure, and the coveted Dirtbag Award to honor the finisher with the least expensive boat – standards will be set across the board and all of them worthy. Every adventure exceptional. Tomorrow (or whenever) marks the beginning of that shift from opportunity to accomplishment. Team Elsie Piddock will set a high bar that will discourage the intrepid who entered the race with a theory didn’t pan out, and excite the achievers who are sitting at the computer in their underwear clicking refresh and extrapolating wind-to-course data in the belief they have the skill to best it. Conditions are never the same, humans are fickle and a future passage of this route might play incredibly differently. This is both the end of the unknown and the beginning of the next. Uncertainty is dead, long live uncertainty!