When the R2AK woke up on the second day of the race it shook off the cobwebs, rubbed its eyes then looked around and started cleaning house, with a baseball bat. By the time your bathrobe-clad morning fantasy was midway through its first sip of coffee, the tracker refreshed and three teams had tapped out of the cage match against the sea that is the R2AK.
Humble pie. As if they had communicated via their sponsor-provided satphones to organize, within 15 minutes of each other Team Turn Point and Team Pure & Wild tapped out and turned their innovations south to sail again another day. New boat issues, fatigue, and other symptoms that indicated mouthfuls that exceeded chewing capacity seemed to be the key issues. More time, more prep, more sleep – who knows what would have happened, but before the lunchbell rang, class was dismissed for two of the most heralded and anticipated high-concept boats of the race. A bitter pill, but these two most innovative teams were back in the barn by mid-afternoon, licking the wounds from rushing to the starting line.
Nature’s next at-bat connected deep to left field and took down one mast, and almost another. A mast careening to the sea isn’t the worst pit-of-the-stomach sound that can happen at sea, but it might be the fastest one that you can survive. The metallic twang of parting metal whipping through the air, the deep splash of 30 feet of angular velocity terminating on the sea, the lurching of the boat, the cracking sound of splintering fibers, then the frantic yells and check-ins to make sure everyone is okay, then to salvage the situation as best as possible. At time of posting we still don’t have the full story of what happened to Team Real Thing, but we do know this: Eagle scouts don’t run. They could have called Uncle, they could have lost their cool and squealed for the Coast Guard because they were justifiably scared, tired, cold, disheartened and had lost their main source of locomotion. Most people would have (we would have), but, in the true spirit of the race, these guys didn’t call out for mom when they stubbed their toe; they sacked up, handled their business and jury-rigged a mast from the wreckage to get themselves back to land. Then they called it a much-deserved day. Disappointed for them to leave the race, definitely, but we honestly couldn’t be prouder of how they did it. Just check out the photo: they bear the faces of the beaten, but their get-home rig is worthy of celebration. What the Real Thingers pulled off after the fact made us proud today. Heads high gents – you are the stuff of champions.
Beyond knocking a few teams out of the park, Calamity connected on more than a few base hits throughout the fleet – a one hop grounding for Hexagram 59 that arrested their development long enough to allow epoxy to cure, Team Free Burd blew reef points and played a successful game of Marco Polo with a deadhead (found it!), a near-dismasting for Team Puffin, wet smokes, and a full picnic with hot guys (yes, it was the Soggy Beavers). There were countless untold dramas on every boat but largely they seemed to escape the fates.
The first trip around the sun was unkind to many, but as despair ruled the day for some, the R2AK air wing captured photographic proof of elation in others. Teams Excellent Adventure, Barefoot, Coastal Express, and Grin seemed to be eponymous in their successes.
The biggest R2AK success: for a few hours Team Elsie Piddock cornered the market on the worldwide supply of open-mouthed wonderment and genuine excitement. Even as we type, these guys are kicking “known truths” in the teeth – in a single afternoon they made a toothless liar of anyone who said you couldn’t sail against Seymour Narrows, and several of our own “fastest case predictions” proved too slow and sent us in a frenzy of changing plane tickets to Ketchikan. These guys are setting the internet on fire. Seriously, go back and read the last year of the internet you’ll see how no one could get there this fast, be this far ahead or sail against the might of Seymour Narrows – do you smell smoke? That’s the internet burning.
24 hours in and if feels like we’ve been watching that tracker for a week. With Team Elsie Piddock 40 miles ahead of the fleet (out of a 160 mile course – literally 25% ahead!), the next week looks like it’s about the fight for the steak knives… unless calamity strikes again. This is still anyone’s game.