Team members: Roger Mann
Hometown: Taylors, SC USA
Race vessel: LiteRace
Human propulsion: Pedal
If you ignore the deafening drone of the current apocalypse, there’s a certain symmetry between the original R2AK and R2AK 2020. Sure, 2015 was the live fire experiment for what would come next, and by April we were well into the “Hold my beer” / “Let go of my beer” double dare as teams went from “R2A-What?” to hulls deep in the R2AK in a manner of weeks. In the first year we made a video, launched the website, and then postponed figuring out the details until the unlikely date anyone signed up for this damned thing. Throw it all out there, then wait for something that would let us know that our thoughts were louder than the sound of crickets and no one.
Roger Mann was the first person to call our bluff, the first application/response from the multiverse that other people were this kind of crazy. It seems like forever ago that our modem made the dial up noise and produced the “You’ve got mail” moment when Roger Mann signed up and the Race to Alaska went from a bad idea to the bad idea.
From the moment he raised his hand as the first guy to sign up for this thing, Roger set the bar. He was an Everglades Challenge/WaterTribe east coast all-star, setting records in the various races around Florida and down the Chesapeake, only to beat them again in the following years. To round out the resume, he flew planes until it got too dangerous, then downshifted to gold-medal, record-setting finishes at the Highland Games.
Pro-tip: If you need someone to pitch hay really high, like record setting high, while wearing a kilt, Roger is your guy.
Roger’s first trip 2AK is the stuff of legends, starting with the gnarliest unboxing video never made when his Hobie Adventure Island pedal boat arrived flat packed and unassembled at the starting line and he slashed his thumb open on the box knife. Gnarlier? He stitched it up himself Rambo-style all while less than a mile from a hospital…and then again when it busted open in the middle of the race. From that moment to his hull-speed-defying mid-pack finish of pedaling from wave to wave in Stage 1; the legendary midnight/man-overboard transit of Seymour Narrows; and the boat-flipping, pitchpole landing in the surf of Cape Caution that pinned him under his boat, filled his unzipped drysuit with water, and forced him to cut off the legs with his knife to avoid drowning (seriously, read his initial year finish line interview. Our eyes couldn’t get wide enough, our sphincters couldn’t get tighter)—in the first year Roger was our high-pucker test pilot who proved R2AK’s potential as a vision quest and leading cause for underwear changes for family and fans alike.
That year and every year thereafter, even the one that he couldn’t make it to because his car broke down in the Rockies on the way to the race, or the year that he was waitlisted for a survivalist reality TV show (could not make this up if we tried), even if only as a legend, Roger has been a part of the R2AK since its inception.
This year Roger was going to be back, and this time with a Liteboat 1X he trimaran-ized with modifications of his own design. He took an open-water rowboat, then strapped on two more hulls, a sailing rig, pedal drive, and the horsepower that is Roger Mann—it would have been unstoppable.
There’s a lot of bad information out there about how the pandemic all started. Some say it was the bat-infused crudités at the raw bar, but we prefer the version of truth in which this whole global shut down is the desperate act of an intimidated universe determined to prevent Roger from getting to Alaska—by any means necessary. Our theory: when Roger bested the local talent of Seymour Narrows and the surf at Cape Caution, the Universe got desperate and tagged in COVID-19. You win this time, universe, but we’ll be back.
Welcome “back” to the R2AK, Team Never Ending Story. Other than “Team Bat-Flavored Apocalypse,” we’re not sure you could have chosen a more timely name.