We see you there, in the four foot high fortress of your three and a half-sided workstation, sneaking peeks at the tracker and hoping that “Soggy Beaver” doesn’t red flag your search history to corporate. While you root for the teams of the R2AK, we’re rooting for you from the other side of your screen. Even when you toggle back to real work, fill out your TPS reports, eat a piece of Safeway sheet cake and sing a half-hearted “Happy Birthday” to that guy from accounting – we’re on your side. We feel your pain. We share your longing to cast off the cubicle and make for the great white north and strip away all of the contrivance that surrounds you. On a boat (especially an engineless small one) there is no filter, no contrivance, no HR department to call if things don’t go your way. When you make a mistake out there you recover based on your own efforts or your entire world becomes one with the cold water. You get wet, sleep wet, and hope to god your lighter dries out enough to get the stove lit with your numb and quivering hands.
There are damned few similarities between your cube and sailing unsupported through the unpopulated wilds, but racking our brains we found one: the trust fall. While other exercises in the classics of corporate team building don’t translate to an engineless jaunt through the wilds of British Columbia (getting the folks in product development to stand in a circle and sit on each other’s knees? Nope. Leading a fellow member of the sales team blindfolded around the office as a way to build trust? No way. Two truths and a lie? Unless it’s a game whose consequences are more shots or less clothing we think you’d probably get beat up for that one pretty much anywhere north of the 48th parallel), the trust fall stands out as a singularly transferrable skill. For those fortunate enough to live a life of substance and are confused, the trust fall is a team building exercise where one member of the team falls backwards from a moderate height into the arms of the rest of their co-workers. Why? To learn the lesson that if you are ever going to fall backwards from a moderate height, you should do so after making sure your co-workers are behind you, lower than you, and ready to catch you with linked arms.
Now imagine a trust fall with purpose, consequence, and duration. Flying a trapeze on a small boat is roughly the same act; launching your body backwards into space hoping that you’ll be caught, same body mechanics, but with more trust, and sustained for a week and a half. The harness around your body attaches to the top of the mast, your cold and numbing feet are planted on the side of the slippery hull so that your body weight can cantilever over the windward side to balance the forces pushing on the sail. Your ability to effectively hold that position through waves that rail against your boat and your body, your ability to suspend the entirety of your being parallel with the water through fatigue and whatever nature throws at you, is the one of the two things between you and capsizing your entirety into 10 degree water. The other one is the person steering. One twitch of the tiller, one lapsed thought, one exhausted moment too long and you are both wet. Wet forever.
That was the reality of Team Mau’s race to Alaska, the smiling duo who rode their Nacra 570 into Ketchikan yesterday morning after 13 days of trust, perseverance and the exertion that comes from sustaining a sit-up for hours on end, days on end. Crazy. What was even crazier was that they were in it to the hilt from the beginning. As teams filtered in from the course, we heard stories of the folks from Mau. “They only had powdered food replacement drinks.” “They kept texting jokes to the Race Boss.” “They capsized and spent 4 days in Seymour Narrows.” “They didn’t have sleeping bags but would make little beds out of pine cones and stuff.” “They would wrap themselves up in their jib to keep warm and keep sailing.” “They shipped their sleeping bags to Ketchikan for the return trip to save weight.” Crazier still: all of the reports were true.
We only had one wad of $10,000, only one set of steak knives, but the spirit of adventure, stress-induced humor, and human embodiment of “Type 2 fun” that Jo and Phil exhibited were the very things we hoped for when we imagined what the R2AK might inspire. They got out there, endured and had fun doing it. Type 2 fun. Their journey has been a remarkable one, an honest one, and one that has filled us with wonderment and laughter since we met them. You two are heroes to us, and while we take our hats off to people all the time, the amount of love and respect we feel for you means we might not ever put them on again. Hatless and thankful you are safe, we look forward to hearing about wherever you adventure next. We hear there is a brisk business in facilitating trust falls… we’d avoid that like beaver fever.