Team members: Jonathan McKee, Matt Pistay, Alyosha Strum-Palerm
Hometown: Seattle, WA, USA
Race vessel: Riptide 44 Monohull
Human propulsion: Oars
TL;DR: Poker in the front, casinos, firewood, and Paul Bieker
To understand the core of Team Pure and Wild’s DNA* is to fully grasp that age-old phrase that no one has ever said:
If you can Texas Hold’em, you can R2AK.
The R2AK is high stakes, has questionable morals, lots of white people, sunglasses, and actual gambling. That’s right, thanks to the Alaskan legislature, you can now legally gamble on the R2AK.
Race to Alaska is the World Series of Poker, with a chance of drowning.
Team Pure and Wild doesn’t roll light into a race that’s been described by no one as “The Bellagio of sailing.” By our count Team Pure and Wild is showing up with a three-of-a-kind of pocket aces:
- R2AK champ—2019 Team Angry Beaver
- Olympic Gold medals
- Paul F***ing Bieker
Yes, three aces before the flop might make you dead/suspect in most circles, but R2AK has the moral code of the Star Wars bar—we good. We’ll play this hand open so you can get the hang of things before we run up the stakes. In reverse order:
Expletives aside, as far as where he plots on the boat/poker matrix that apparently exists now, Paul Bieker’s x-axis lies somewhere between the boat designing legends of Nathanial Herreschoff and Bob Perry with a y-axis coordinate closer to the big money poker stylings of Doyle Brunson and Dan Bilzerian. PNW to the bone, Paul has been blowing minds for decades with his innovative boat designs that have raced primetime races on both coasts; from the America’s Cup all the way to the Race to Alaska. In R2AK-1, Bieker’s custom Proa exited early after a rush to the starting line production revealed some teething issues in the race’s early days. When innovation doesn’t serve, lean on the classics. Dark Star is a Bieker design/build from the early 2000s that answers the question of what would happen if you crammed a Winnebago into a Ferrari. Speed + comfort = the kind of boat you might expect when it’s designed to be the age in place speed machine for an Olympic sailor whose only complaint about his gold medal is that he never gets to talk about his silver.
The crew? Made guys. They’d roll up to R2AK fictional casino in a McLaren, toss the keys to the valet as the velvet ropes part and they get “Right this way, sir”-ed to ringside seats. They made their bones winning pretty much anything that has a podium: gold medal performances in Transpac, Olympics, and even the R2AK. Matt Pistay and Team Angry Beavers took home R2AK gold in 2019 on a single hull with two rudders and a canting keel, besting at least one multihull that should have run the table based on boat speed alone. Two key hands in the race’s lower portion were the set up: tidal gates at Active Pass and Seymour Narrows kept the game close, then solid sailing and their competitors being dealt a full speed log strike paved the way for Team Angry Beavers to elate their beaver’s mood for at least a moment as they were handed R2AK’s big pot: $10,000 nailed to a piece of firewood.
Also they have a third crew member. He seems great too. (There, we mentioned him. Happy?)
…Fine, here’s more: what does someone need to do to get a gold medalist, let alone an R2AK champ, to invite you to sail to Alaska? From what we can tell from their third crew, the answer is: a lot, and well, Alyosha has packed about as much sailing as one possibly could into his 22 years on the planet—and mostly just the blue part. Big races like Oregon Offshore, coaching, racing, sailing up and down the Puget Sound, and can rig to boot.
The looming question: Is being dealt a three pocket aces the presumptive win before we even start, or is it all the toehold hubris needs to set up a dramatic, come from behind victory for a hard scrabble underdog; like R2AK in 2019, or last year’s World Series of Poker when hand that was dealt a 2 and a 7 beat a pair of Aces for an $1.8M win?
Hard saying not knowing, but if the stakes are that high we’re going to need more firewood.
Welcome to the R2AK, Team Pure and Wild. No matter where you normally poker, we’re stoked you’re going all-in with the R2AK.
* Here are some facts for the dataheads. First, Team Pure and Wild raced in 2015 and didn’t make it past the Strait of Georgia. In 2016, a totally new team toed the line with the team name Pure and Wild to take 6th place. 2017 recycled the moniker under Team Pure and Wild/Freeburd and won the 10K.
Fact are exhausting. But here we are 2022, and the 4th team to embrace sponsorship and change their name from the original Dark Star to Pure and Wild.