Day 21: Numerology, the risk of specificity, and turbo-charged leisure

Field Report
photo: Team Fix Oder Nix by Jim Meyers

We bounced around the idea and can now avow, “We have never seen a match race for the final finisher like we are tracking at this moment.” Both Sockeye Voyages and Fix Oder Nix found the nitrous button by the bilge pump handle and are moving at speed, belying their gunkholing tendencies. After leaving the intoxicating embrace of Bella Bella, SV put in nearly 100 miles in two days, bringing them abeam of FoN. All day they battled (some call it buddy boating) with a distinct middle finger held high aloft, and astern should the Grim Sweeper get any funny ideas about its role in our final R2AK days. Speed has little meaning in a neck-and-neck race; whether boats are foiling so hard they’re sluffing paint or their measure of advance is the distance between oar splashes, the game is afoot. What matters now is where the bow is, not how it got there, and when we will see them on the docks tomorrow—or the next. At this point, it doesn’t really matter; we will finally be able to celebrate this victory shoulder to shoulder. And Chelcie will get to work…

It’s been since 2015 that the curtain was pulled back on R2AK to reveal our glaring weakness in the arcane and (bias here) needless art of mathematics. Since the race cabal was formed—comparing outdated charts and walking mileage with a divider—there have been plenty of minds to discuss feasibility, strategy, and if teams will answer the clarion call of the best bad idea we could muster. However, it wasn’t until 2015, when teams started hitting the finish line at Chuck’s Fish House, that we began to see the extraordinary folly of our preparation. Starting the second leg at noon, time zone differences, and measuring something with a word never uttered but to ask some to wait.

 “Just a minute!” 

Or describe some of the racer’s boat parts.  

“That is the most minute turning block I have ever seen. It’s adorable!” 

It proved too much for our simple selves. We’d get team names right and routinely the proper day they arrive, but specificity beyond the celebratory fact of a team making it to Ketchikan was beyond us. And the inaccuracies of our guesses were vetted—as they are every year—by thousands of viewers and tracker fans routinely hungering for even a single true fact. 

Spray paint ain’t going to change our true colors, and therapy seems to work the wrong lobe for what ails us, but one pissed-off fan, driven nearly to full body paroxysms, decided it was time to end this charade of professionalism and get something right.

Chelcie decided he would either curse our forebears, burn his race hat, and never darken our door again, or find a solution. And so the Chelcie Papers were born. A trove of multi-year race finishes vetted through actual statistics, Facebook feeds, live cams, and reports on the race. He corrects timings, team sizes, and vessel length and crams it into one beautiful, head-spinning document.

So to all the geeks out there, the armchair statisticians, teams who want to know how they fared, and those calculating world records, the Chelcie Papers are here for 2022. 

As a taster, here is what we gleaned on this 21st day of the race:

  • The west coast route is still unproven as the fastest way to claim an R2AK first place. For as fast as Pure & Wild hustled up the coast, four teams from three different years, including a monohull, have made it more quickly.
  • Wraith 2AK missed the record of Fastest Tenth-Place Finish by 7 hours and 6 minutes (2018 Wright Yachts).
  • Leigh and Clare of Don’t Tell Mom gracefully pulled off a new record time for a rowboat.
  • But Karl #$%# Kruger of Heart of Gold still holds the human-power record on a stand-up paddleboard (2017)… A paddleboard.
  • And no one will ever beat the record held by Barefoot Wooden Boat for Final Finisher. Because we could not tolerate the wait and permanently shortened the course after 2015. Their finish remains always the longest.

Mainly we see a lot of numbers, and it makes us sleepy. What great insights have we missed?

Two more teams are looking to adorn the Papers before this clock is unwound. Today or tomorrow. Chelcie will be waiting.


First Team Sockeye Voyages by Jim Meyers, second by Liv von Oelreich, third by Rebecca Ross

Field Report: Having What It Takes to Finish Race to Alaska

By Rebecca Ross, Field Reporter

If you’ve been following Race to Alaska, you know how unbelievably challenging the race is— especially for the human-powered teams. For most people, making it to the finish line requires unbelievable mental fortitude and physical stamina, especially if the weather gods aren’t particularly kind during those taxing days out at sea. There is no guarantee that racers will even make it to Ketchikan under ideal circumstances with fair weather, extensive skills, and experience.

But then, there’s Team Let’s Row Maybe?—an all-female row team who had never done anything like this before and yet managed to cross the finish line, barely intact, but still, they did it! 

Following their journey, I realized it may have been their unyielding determination, endless reserves of pure, raw grit, and a substantial amount of humor that got them through it. Especially since they felt there was a conspiracy against them—receiving every obstacle the universe (and maybe even the Race Boss) could conjure upKeep Reading