Team members: Evrard Martens, Christian Lincoln, Max Reimer
Hometown: Lopez Island & Vancouver, Washington, USA / Belgium
Race vessel: SJ30 Bruce Kirby
Human propulsion: Pedal
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While the idea dates back to 9th century France, ‘sister cities’ didn’t hit the North American scene until 1931 when, after an assessment of cities worldwide and taking into account similarities of size, political views, and cultural prestige, then disregarding all of that, the Toledo in Ohio chose to sister up with the Toledo in Spain for reasons that seemingly could be grasped by even their less-informed residents.
In case you’re from either of there: Toledo. Both of you are named Toledo. That’s the reason.
While it might have started with the preschool, ‘We have the same name? Best friends!,’ selecting a municipal mate has evolved with the times. Other than Rome and Paris who, like ducks and nuns, are partnered exclusively for life, even the Toledos are now seeing other cities (and mutually cool with that BTW. It’s not a scandal, it’s a lifestyle.). Now, cities are pairing up with places that share common trait, usual options: a latitude, roughly similar populations, a common aspiration for zebras, a mutual history of rejection for Amazon’s HQ2, whatever—there’s something in common that makes the mayor swipe right.
While they might not know it, and their hometowns have yet to get the yet-to-be-written memo, if we were the Yente for hot city-on-city action, Team Watertight Instant Paradise’s two hometowns would be at the top of our matchmaker lists: Belgium and Lopez Island, WA.
At first glance, you might not think of them as sister city material; a key issue being that one of them is actually a country and the other barely is a town. But the heart wants what it wants, and the similarities are undeniable. As one of their team members described his hometown: “Belgium, a small country filled with beer and chocolate,” Lopez boasts a destination bakery and a marquee line of ice cream. Belgium is famously flat, Lopez is the only San Juan Island of size (sorry, Shaw Island) not infested with hills; bicycles love both of them. Lopez Islanders are known for being so friendly that they wave at every passing lifeform, Belgians are so hopped up on waffles that an entire ‘country’ produces close to zero hits when you Google ‘Angry Belgian.’ Stomp on the wine glasses, mazel tov—it’s a match!
Lopez and Belgium share one more thing in common: Team Watertight Instant Paradise, whose three known crew members claim hometowns of Belgium, Lopez, and Lopez/Belgium. You might not think that a 20-something Belgian metal fabricator would return to his grandparents’ Lopez Island home where he spent his summers so he could work, live, refurbish a San Juan 30, and then reunite with an American sailing camp co-worker (and that guy’s Belgian sailing instructor counterpart) to form a team that would come to represent a rising generation and two unknowingly would-be sister cities for an engineless charge to Alaska. You might not think that incredibly infeasible circumstance/run-on sentence structure was possible, but you’d be wrong.
Their skills are as varied as their sister cities: all were sailing instructors, some of them in Europe. They have also raced around similar sized objects; buoys in Europe, and Shaw Island in the San Juans (sorry Shaw.) One of them has a habit of traveling to learn languages: Germany to learn German, a 10,000 mile trip through the US to learn the dialect of English spoken on Greyhound buses. We’re not sure if he’s in the R2AK for the adventure or to learn the nuances of hypothermic Canadian profanity, but we’re excited to hear what he’s picked up. One of them has even worked to facilitate engineless sailing adventures onboard the storied Tern, a Lopez built open boat that enginelessly went 2AK a decade before we thought of R-ing it.
Their boat? 30 feet of watertight plastic practicality that Evrard rescued from a decade of backyard languish. They’ve upgraded with a pedal drive designed for moving the boat during the times when the wind and a theoretical plane are the only things flatter than their hometown (either one).
Welcome to the R2AK, Team Watertight Instant Paradise. Think of the R2AK as an optional Dunkirk, but from Lopez, and for fun.