Team Name: North2Alaska
Team Members: +/- one year from high school: Henry Veitenhans, River Yearian, Sean Westlund
Team Members: > one year from high school: Greg Veitenhans, Malachi Church
Hometown: Nordland, WA USA
Race vessel: self-built aluminum Maryland fishing Sharpie
Human propulsion: Oars
There are two sets of rationale we hear on a regular basis: One is a litany of well-founded reasons not to enter the R2AK, the other is a well-worn shade throw at kids these days. Combined Cliff notes of both: It’s too hard, they’re always on their phones, no engines ain’t safe, no work ethic, why only one prize, they only care about their twittergrams. We get the narratives confused, it’s usually the same people who flame out on the both/either.
The logic blurs in the repetition. We can’t do this, they can’t do that, kids these days and their music is just noise. Team North2Alaska is the singular refutation to both sides of that argument. Dissected point by point:
They lack curiosity and initiative: The team could have signed on for another period of French but strayed from the safe and narrow of Jeu-jouing au tennis to take initiative and bent their graduation requirements to make their high school existence work for their adventures. R2AK is their senior project. Like they have to do it to graduate. We are so proud. How’s that spice rack you made for your mom in your forced march shop class? Still talked about as a pinnacle experience of several sets of human lives? Yeah, the key chain we made for our mom is still on the fridge too.
We don’t have the skills: There’s a tipping point in all of our lives where enthusiasm conquers prudence, and Team North2Alaska has a thumb on the “Hoo-ra” side of that scale. It’s hardly fair, they’re generations deep into raising the next crop of Spartans within the social media herd. (see the next point) This crew looks past the horizon to Alaska and its nature and nurture that leads them to “How hard could it be?” When the Apocalypse comes we want Henry and his friends on our team.
They don’t respect their elders: Well, while it should be true, but they did invite Henry’s dad Greg to come. (He also helped build the boat, and the Abrams tank superstructure that he and Henry used to encase their riding lawnmower.) Greg’s a commercial fisherman whose lived in Port Townsend and fished in Alaska since he took a winger on a wooden troller 30 years ago and never looked back; knows the route like the back of his hand. Miles done on the inside passage: tens of thousands. Miles rowed: 0. Yeah, let’s do this engineless.
We don’t have the boat: These guys blew through that stop sign and doubled down on a concept to build it themselves in the hardest way possible: traditional design, modern materials, and graded as part of a graduation requirement. Aluminum welding is hard, and these guys self-taught themselves, nuf said.
It’s hard to look at Team North2Alaska and not just feel bad about yourself. Regardless of your age or ability, the following is true: your excuse-ridden obstacles were overcome by high school students, who built their own boat, included team members above and below their age and experience, all to get them a life memory and a resume builder, and all while reaffirming their relationship with their parents. The score at the time of posting: Them: 1. The rest of us: 0.
Welcome to the R2AK Team North2Alaska, Johnny Horton’s estate thanks you for giving the song a second life. Next time you disrespect your elders please be more specific, we need the ammo.