Team members: Kai O’Connor, Noah Garrett, Aiden McGookin
Hometown: Olympia, Washington, USA
Race vessel: Santana 20
Human propulsion: Pedal drive and oars
As long as you keep a loose relationship with precision and the scientific side of reality, numerology and the number ‘20’ loom precise and significant in the story of Team Yankee Peddlers.
Let’s start with their boat. At ‘exactly’ 20 feet long the Santana 20 was a diminutive giant in the buoy racer set for the last two sets of 20 years. Fin keel and a spade rudder, from the first to come out of the mold to hull #900+ that marked the last, Santana 20’s were cranked off the assembly line as the sweet-spot sport boat for the 1980s perm, testicularly-questionable running shorts, and mustache set who were putting their meat on the rail up and down California’s monohull scene during the time when Eric Estrada’s CHiP khaki butt-huggers were battling Daisy Duke’s handkerchief halter-tops for the hottest thing on the three channels of Ronald Reagan’s primetime. Fin keels and spade rudders were the fastest things going in the buggy whip days of a non-foiling universe, and they called in their wins from rotary phones.
Wait for the zero…wait for it.
Making the last twenty or so references irrelevant to them is the fact that their 20 feet (or so) of plastic sailing fantastic was two-part epoxied into the world ‘exactly’ 20 years before any of Team Yankee Peddlers were born… which makes them all ‘exactly’ 20 years old (or 19, 19, 22 and 22) and somewhere between 20% and 20 times cooler than you.
Being clear, that last thing is probably true regardless of who you/they are, but read the rest of this and we’ll bet you a Jefferson we’re right. Team Yankee Peddlers haven’t aspired to make the R2AK their rite of passage as much as we emerged as their inevitable passage of rite. Stepping back for the wider view, there’s a weapons-grade optimism fused with dirtbaggery that seems to exist in both R2AK and the unscheduled summers of autonomy of your late teens/early 20s.
Team Yankee Peddlers haven’t wasted it. They’ve sailed in freshwater lakes and the salt water whatevers of the other coast. They’ve outdoored, hiked, climbed, and seemingly claimed the mantle as the youngest people on this globally warmed planet to walk to school in the snow, and while they claim they had shoes, we’re told it was uphill both ways. It seems like a story born a generation or two too late. But, then again, Vermont.
More than all of that, at 19, they resurrected a 27-foot ‘backyard special’ from the algae and neglect, then sailed it round-trip from Maine to Jamaica, mostly solo, mostly engineless (unplanned, it broke for good eventually) and back—including at least a 3-day broken rudder passage from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Florida Keys. More than the carnage (vessel based, humans intact), it was a trip punctuated with life epiphanies and a ‘shorts optional’ conch horn salute to the fellow seafarers on a passing cruise ship (It’s a good story / TED Talk, check it here).
More than the long distance solo-sail before they hit 20, more than the full-frontal high seas camaraderie with the balcony suites of an anonymous cruise ship, Team Yankee Peddlers didn’t just go sailing on that post-graduation boat trip, they transcended. Transcended from curious to accomplished, from those who talk to those who do, from those who almost did to those who never have to say ‘almost,’ from people doing things for the resume to people doing things for the value of the experience itself. What we love about Team Yankee Peddlers is that they are the ‘us’ we wished we could have been and hope to be again. They’ve got 20 years on us, both ways, and we couldn’t be more intimidated and inspired.
Welcome to the R2AK, Team Yankee Peddlers. Alaska’s colder… so, maybe pants.