Team members: Russell Brown; (first leg only) Ashlyn Brown, Alex Spear
Hometown: Port Townsend, Washington, USA
Race vessel: Gougeon 32 catamaran
Human propulsion: custom pedal drive
Connect: website, instagram, youtube
R2AK cred: World Record fastest solo finish (2017)
Every sport, every industry and field of study has a Team PT Watercraft. Don’t be mistaken, we don’t mean that Russel is in anyway common, but he’s the kind of famous you’ve never heard of, unless you’re the same kind of anonymous famous, in the same niche, of the same niche.
You ever heard of Fred Beckey? Us either, but in the golden age of 20th century mountaineering, the rockstars climbed big peaks in the spotlight. His name is unknown despite the 60 years of first ascents (yep, 60), the climber’s climber from the age before big wall selfies were a thing. He just climbed. For decades the only news you got was from harnessed-up dude-bros sitting on their packs at the trailhead parking lot.
“Dude, that was Beckey!”
Russell Brown is Fred Beckey for the sailing world. Russell is the sailor’s sailor. His blue-eyed smile has designed, built, and sailed some of the coolest boats you’ve never heard of because he’d rather do it than promote it. He’s an under-the-radar guy who has done whatever it is that you’re wondering about, at least twice. He hates the spotlight, maybe even more than Beckey, hates people fawning over his genius. He’s hating us right now, just for talking about it. This is fun.
Paradoxically, for a guy who has spent his life trying to duck attention, he keeps company with boats that can’t not be remembered. Our top three:
#1- He designed, built, and sailed a 30-foot proa with which he sailed circles around fleets for years. Little known fact in the first Race to Alaska was that Russell “shadowed” the fleet for the first stage, which is a polite way of saying he started after everyone and then beat them all to Victoria. We didn’t talk about it because it was at least a little embarrassing and Russell didn’t want the attention—but he did it, he beat the fleet without even trying. Right about now he is really hating us, and we love it!
#2- When he was working on the BMW/Oracle boat in their first bid at the America’s Cup (because he’s that good), he commuted on a one of the Franken-craft of his own creation: a hybrid of a classic 50’s runabout and a Tornado catamaran. It’s the weirdest, coolest thing that we have ever seen. Beach Blanket Bingo style and cutting-edge, new millennium design that means a ten-horse outboard can do 20 knots of boat speed… dry knots because it’s up off the water by 3 feet. We don’t want one, we want three.
#3- The G32 he’s riding north. It’s impossible to look at his boat and not ask questions. Hard to describe, outer-space cuttlefish, George Jetson meets a multihull, the G32 was designed, built, and campaigned by Jan Gougeon; the boat designing half of the Gougeon’s fraternal epoxy cartel that reduced the complex chemistry of two parts adhesives to two white cans and two spring loaded spigots that ooze forth in perfect 5:1 ratio. They changed the world and became the Kleenex of self-hardening ooze on the bet that the rest of us could remember how many pumps we did on the first can when we pumped the second. Because they were sailors before, during, and after they became the kingpins of ooze, they built twelve of these trailerable rocket ships, high rig (that Russell designed and built out of carbon fiber), running backstays and self-bailing water ballast in each hull. 32? boat with an 8? beam, it was meant to be the fastest thing launched from trailer wheels. They came pretty close. Russell stalked the rarefied herd of these boats for years, and pounced when one of the dozen became available. Low profile be damned. The only band-aid was to name the boat “Incognito.” The R2AK had 12 million web hits last year. Good luck on your anonymous, friendo.
Team PT Watercraft sells genius kits of boats, 11-foot nesting dinghies that are as comely as they are fast, motor skiffs that are as seaworthy as they are buildable, as they are good looking, as they are affordable. Commercial over, back to fawning…
There are plenty of stories that should be added to the fame of Russell Brown (cruising the east coast on a Hobie 18, the coast of BC, New Zealand, his dad Jim who pioneered recreational multihulls 50 years ago, etc.), but he’s anonymous until now. Last year, he became the famous niche hero of the solo conquest of the R2AK—setting the record in 9 days and a minute under 6 hours. Impressive.
Welcome to the R2AK, Team PT Watercraft, we hope you have caller ID.