Team Buckeye

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Team members: Robbie Stone, JT Hawk, Kitty Stone, Emily Acer, Chuck Hiers, Renee Lehto, Ethan Stone
Hometown: Lucasville, OH, USA
Race vessel: 1986 Hobie 33
LOA: 33′
Human propulsion: Pedal (prop)
Connect: website, facebook, twitter, youtube
Interview with: Robbie Stone

In 2018, JT and Rob made a record-setting effort to be the fastest under-20-foot, bilge-keeled, double-handed, pedaled-and-rowed boat over 40 years old to make it to Port Hardy in R2AK. And shatter that record they did! Along with their mast, bowsprit, and dreams of going to Ketchikan. The brothers-in-law have recruited two additional family members and a guy named Chuck who just might have gotten the equivalent of Barkley Marathon Bib No. 1—only time will tell.

If you think of Ohio more as a middle-America proxy punchline than sailing’s source code, welcome. Team Buckeye sails again not just to prove you wrong, but for the greater glory of the swing state turned R2AK contender dojo. This isn’t Team Buckeye’s first rodeo. In 2018, they made it most of the way before their 20’, 40-year-old driveway yacht shattered more parts than records and they were forced to retire before they escaped the gravitational pull of Vancouver Island. 2023? Different story. Lesson learned, Team Buckeye has secured a design proven worthy of the second place steak knives in 2015, added more crew (read: two brothers-in-law added additional, similarly disposable family members) and have presumably spent the last 5 years training for Alaska off the wild shores of Toledo. 

We caught up with Team Buckeye over a hypothetical bowl of pierogies to catch up on their race preparation and strategy for 2023. 

What are the necessary components of a good adventure?

Fun! I understand that not everyone will agree that this kind of adventure is fun. Being with people who you genuinely like, it is a bonus that all but one of the crew is family and we like each other! A good adventure needs a goal that not everyone accomplishes; if everyone who sets out makes it, it isn’t challenging enough. We learned in 2018 that this race is challenging. 

We are approved for the outside option, but we really don’t want to go that way.                                                                                                                                                                                     [Rant against outside option redacted by the censors]

What’s a lesson you learned the hard way?

You need a pedal drive! In 2018, JT and I rowed 30 minutes on 30 minutes off for over 20 hours in one stretch. We agreed next time we would have pedal drive. As I write this I have time scheduled tomorrow to do some welding as we take our concept to release candidate 1.  

What’s your favorite kind of bracket?

The one with Team Buckeye in the winner box? Maybe the bracket we built to attach the bike portion of our pedal drive to the boat? The CFP bracket with Ohio State as the national champions is pretty cool, too. 

It’s drizzling, freezing cold, and you’ve missed the tide. The cabin is leaky and the stove won’t light. How do you keep the good vibes going?

Remind everyone that this is fun! We could be in an office working, or any number of normal people activities. We are doing something that few people try, and even fewer succeed at. Assuming we have enough battery, I would pull out the hidden blue-tooth speaker and play a pre-arranged playlist! Then I will put on some coffee and prepare an amazing hot meal while we wait it out. Sleep, we would also sleep!

Forget the 10k or the steak knives. What does success look like for you and your team?

Ringing the Bell in Ketchikan! I am not used to not succeeding at something I set out to do. Failing to ring the bell in 2018 has been this un-done thing. It’s like seeing your favorite shirt dirty in the laundry but never actually washing it. It isn’t hurting you, but you see it often lying there, and you want to wear it but you can’t. I need to finish this race.

Defend your vessel. What makes it worthy?

The Hobie 33 has a proven track record. It continues to beat much newer and more expensive boats still to this day. At least two of them have participated in the R2AK and finished.  On our way home from the race in 2018, while still licking our wounds, we were evaluating boats for another attempt. As is my preference, I started with a boat that had been “rode hard and put away wet.” I spent the winter of 2018 and all of 2019 restoring her. We were preparing for the 2020 R2AK. We all know what happened with that. This boat has everything new. The latest B&G electronics, with AIS, and all the bells and whistles. All new sails, the primary sails are carbon fiber racing sails, and tri-radial Dacron mule sails (a very old concept not many people utilize anymore). She has a custom interior with a gimbaled stove that I built. There is a unique 3-gallon pressurized water system made from an agriculture sprayer, hygiene is important! We are building a pedal drive system that allows two people to pedal and drive one prop. We are also re-using the custom carbon fiber oars from 2018 for two rowing stations instead of the one sculling station utilized in 2018. I don’t think our Yuloh will make the trip. The boat has to make the 5,118-mile round trip over the road. In 2018 it took around 36 hours, only stopping for gas.

Blank space, baby. Share some things:

No one will have more fun than us! (Editor’s note: bold claim!)

If we win the 10K we will still have lost money! That is just counting the cost to get there, to participate, and to get back home! The amount of effort and cost it takes to do this race coming from Ohio is mind-numbing and makes no sense.

                                                                                                                                                       [More outside option complaints redacted; censors are not amused]

I am 80% through writing a book about the 2018 experience! Still deciding whether to finish it or add the 2023 experience to the same book. I really, really want to write a book titled, something like “the R2AK guide.” Interview past teams and compile a what you need to know kind of book. It might be my project when I retire. 

Each team member placed an order with sizes for the Blazer Party. We expect to attend with our sleeves intact. 


Proven boat, veteran crew, negative bankroll, and a positive attitude. Welcome back to the R2AK, Team Buckeye. Regardless of where you finish or how wet you get, we hope this continues to make no sense in the best way.