Day 11: Team Loustic, pronounced like glue stick

24-hour Fact Sheet
photo: Team Loustic SuperSonic by Lynnette Oostmeyer

Let’s be clear: there are dumber ways to get to Alaska. 

For the few hundred words between here and whatever version of “R2AK, out” we see ourselves smug enough to use as our puffed-up sign-off, it’s more than likely that these keys and fingers are going to flail into territory that’s somewhere between francophone adulations and a “What the hell were you thinking?” roast because we love you. 

All of that *waves hands*, so we thought we’d start with an honest-to-god compliment: There are dumber ways to get to Alaska. 

Not many, and it’s subjective as all—if you pardon our French—*expletive we’re no longer able to say*, but unless you count paddleboard and pogo stick, getting to Alaska on a 20’ boat that you bought sight unseen from a hemisphere away is at least top five on the lists that deal with the kink/fringe of engineless boat racing to anywhere, let alone Alaska. 

Yesterday, the pen pal garage sale that is Team Loustic SuperSonic crossed the line at 10:04 AM local time/zoot alors o’clock, completing an improbable journey that started with finding a team, then finding a boat, then making sure none of those things shook loose thousands of miles away from your home shores of Brittany. 

Rewind to the origin story: Boris was sailing with family, started doing long-distance stage races, and somehow found Nathalie, who was able to match his maniac/tabernac energy with her own enthusiasm, skills, and bonkers blue sunscreen (seriously, we never knew that sunscreen could be blue before, but since the starting line we’ve never seen her in anything but a France-meets-NFL smear of blue across the under-eye, ear-to-ear strip of her face). Cue the need for a boat, cue the need for a broker, scramble the Craigslist navy who scoured the Portland to Victoria listings on the daily to find the boat to take these Frenchies to AK. The boat was found in January, retrofitted by stateside volunteers throughout the spring, and then nearly sunk in Stage One as the deck tried its damndest to separate from the hull, in high seas, while the boat filled with water. 

Boris saw the water in the boat, jumped in, and feared the worst: the keel was separating from the hull. After a wave or two, a couple of things became clear:

“Pas de keel problem,” the keel wasn’t falling off as he had feared, but there was an opening 10 cm wide, and 100 cm long. A watery smile, 4” high and 3’ long, spitting water into a boat that was exactly 20’ long. Not a lot of boat for that much water. 

“Everything was floating. Everything, everything…” C’est dommage there was damage. Less than 10 miles into the race and it looked like “Fin” was coming earlier than forecast.  

They turned downwind, bucketed like hell, found a dock, hitched to town, found the parts, repaired the damage, convinced the owner of record that they weren’t going to cost him his reputation and retirement—because insurance + foreign ownership = sketchy third-party workarounds. Their boat was actually owned by someone else—for the sake of anonymity we’ll call him “Daniel Joram”—and he wasn’t stoked at how things were developing. 

After a couple of nights of repair and courage next to Team Goldfinch in Sequim Bay, they continued on. Of course they did; other than the root word for the English equivalent, there’s no word in French for quit. And ne quitte pas they did, for 700 miles. How? Why? Because the French rouge, white, and bleu don’t run either, and this is the R2-mother-loving-AK. 

In just under 10 days since the start in Victoria, Team Loustic SuperSonic crossed the line in bleu sun-screened glory. (Seriously, check any picture of her. Every single time we thought she was part of some unspoken Ukrainian solidarity march. Weirdest sunscreen we’ve ever seen. Every. Single. Time. Tabernac, man…taber-fricken-nac.) 

Other than the “Pourquoi?” color of sunscreen and secretly wondering where they could find the nearest bibliotheque, conversation at the finish line was heartfelt but strained due to the language barrier. “I’ve dreamt of this race for months and months…and it was nothing like I thought.” We picked up that they were pleased by their time, that they had finished faster than they had predicted, potentially by as much as a week. That’s when it turned as close to competitive (or in their language “competitíve”) as they were willing to get: “How close…?”

At the time Team Goldfinch was 100 or so miles to the south. “Aw… shite!” 

Team Goldfinch’s “Aw shucks,” college sailing smile-fest started as Team Loustic’s dockside neighbors in the aftermath of Stage One, back two Mondays ago. Goldfinch was also sailing a 20’ boat that had similarly been procured for them sight unseen by well-wishing volunteers. Dockside in Sequim Bay, the differences contained inside of their same-lengthed waterlines couldn’t have been more stark. Team Goldfinch’s yellow Ranger 20 looked like a toddling pool toy next to the Santana 20’s paired down class racer… that, and unlike their competitors, Team Goldfinch wasn’t trying to make their waterline live up to its name in a literal sense; there was no water pouring through it. Team Goldfinch loaned Loustic tools and companionship, then it was race-on for the remainder of the course. Team Loustic and Goldfinch swapped leads up and down the coast until they made different choices around Aristazabal Island, Team Loustic’s choice to head into Hecate Strait seemed to make all the difference as they horizoned their yellow-hulled rivals. While they’re too nice to say it themselves, their victory demands their culturally appropriate celebration:

“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.”

What was next? Team Loustic SuperSonic hadn’t dared think that far ahead. 

“Maybe we fish salmons?” 

Solid choice. 

Bienvenue au Ketchikan, Team Loustic SuperSonic. Your victory gives hope to all of us who aspire to R2AK on a garage-saled boat that we bought sight unseen and then repaired all the way to Alaska. Ok, “all of us” is a stretch. Your victory gives hope to both of us. 

Welcome to done. R2AK, fin.

First and last Team Loustic SuperSonic by Lucas Gardner, second Team Loustic SuperSonic by Jim Meyers

A Grueling Race with Team Fashionably Late

24-Hour Fact Sheet

  • 14,365 – Total miles covered by all race boats combined
  • 100 – Gallons of seawater that Team Loustic SuperSonic estimates got in the boat during Stage One
  • 2 – Free coffee tokens given to every R2AK finisher by the owner of the New York Cafe in Ketchikan
  • 10 – Teams remaining on the briny
  • 2 of 9 – Multihulls have crossed the finish line so far
  • 1 – 2022 team already reserving a new name for 2023