Stage 2, Day 1: Race Start, washing underwear in the sink, and somebody licks a Ouija Board. 

If you were to have invented, patented, then produced a new geiger counter that measured the levels of nervous energy instead of radiation, then deploy that device on the docks in Victoria for the 24-hours between noon on Tuesday and noon on Wednesday at least two things would be true:

  • You would have spent a lot of time and resources inventing something of marginal value. 
  • We could have just told you. Saved you your life savings, your marriage, and all of VC money for R&D. 

Until the yet to be developed field of Nervemetry catches up with your dreams, we can tell you on good authority that the energy reading on the docks was drastically different between Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. 

Tuesday was a 2.3. 

Noon Tuesday was the international dateline between whatever hangovers were ebbing out of racers after the party the night before, the remaining items on their checklist, and the balance of introvert/extrovert emotions for interacting with the public about the R2AK during the open docks in Victoria (which went great, thanks for asking).

Hundreds of fans from all over came down to meet the teams they’ll be rooting for/swearing at for the next few weeks. Sure there were holes being drilled into the tops of masts, and sure, there were multiple runs to multiple hardware stores, but all in all a pretty low reading, and well inside of tolerance compared to the data gathered in previous years. 

Even the biggest issues of Stage 1 were being systematically resolved. Team Boogie Barge’s existential structural problem? Sorted, and stronger than ever. Team Loose Screws losing their pedal drive? A call to R2AK nation for help had produced not just one replacement (“It’s even better than our first one!”) but an additional one that got incorporated into Team Outtaspace. Now Outtaspace has both oars AND pedals. Never waste a crisis. 

Wednesday was 4.6 (and remember, this is a logarithmic scale).

The open house/shopping trip vibes of Tuesday transformed overnight into a hive swarm of low key frenetic activity. Last minute repairs, gear packed and repacked, loved ones milling on the dock to say goodbye and good luck, and goodbye and good luck, and yes, we’ll give you some space. Good luck. 

With all of that activity, it’s hard to say who was most NervometricTM. Who was least? George, the 3-foot sock monkey that has inexplicably become a veteran of multiple teams’ multiple tours in the R2AK navy. George was stoic, unfazed. George was ready. 

The Nerveometer hit 11 around 11:45 when the docks were cleared of teams and bystanders to make way for the most hilarious start of any. Families offered another last goodbye and good luck, and teams made their way to the top of the seawall; a Bohr Model holding cell for nervous energy ready to lose a fleet worth of free electrons towards the wilds of Alaska. 

Racer free radicals were surrounded by more than a thousand members of the public who ringed the marina to see the teams off and/or wonder why the hell it was so hard to walk on the sidewalk right now. The already informed part of the crowd included at least one mother and son team who traveled from as far as Arizona just to see it themselves and dozens of R2AK alumni who came to see the latest crop launch to the moon and experience the intoxicating mix of “I wish it was/thank god it’s not me.” 

At the nucleus of this running atomic model metaphor was the R2AK’s Class of ‘24; the hundred or so souls who were minutes away from fusing themselves with their northbound destiny. The class photo that wasn’t taken would have been one to remember, this is the last time that all of these teams, this community in motion would be in the same place at the same time. Nostalgia would come later. The air in the moments before was filled with an intoxicating culmination of adrenaline and the “Oh my god we are actually doing this” realized and excited bewilderment. For some this had been years in the making. The future they had imagined was converging with their present. This was as cosmic as it was predictable. 

Highs were fived, selfies were selfed, and all the vibes vibed to a nervous approximation of their particular frequency. 

In terms of actual reality, more than a few teams had matching shirts, Team Sailor Swift wore their signature sets of matching red Fluevog prototypes, Team Stranger Danger leaned into the bit and donned mustaches and may or may not have offered candy to Teams Juvenile Delinquents and Rock the Boat; the two teams of high schoolers who “no thanks, mister-ed” their final moments of R2AK’s final pre-game. Raised ‘em right. 






A horn was blown, a cannon was fired, and amongst the cacophony of R2AK Branded CowbellsTM a stream of humanity ran through the crowd and down the dock to unleash their dogs of war into this year’s main event. 

The hustle was impressive. At least one team cut lines to save the crucial seven seconds in this race that lasts seven to 22 days. It’s a hard argument that seven seconds will ever matter, but as someone is about to write, victory is built seven seconds at a time, and Team Roscoe Pickle Train wasn’t going to cede defeat before things had even started. It paid off immediately. TRPT was the first to cut lines, first off the dock, first to pass at least 5 teams, and first place overall for at least 5 minutes. Story for a lifetime and bragging rights for at least an hour. 

If you’ve watched the movie but never been, the start of this year’s R2AK was like the movie, but surprisingly more lifelike. Thanks to float planes, Canada, and laws there is legally no sailing in Victoria’s inner harbor. This means that R2AK’s ragtag navy of sailboats, kayaks, and whatever Team Barely Heumann is, all had to human power, pell-mell themselves for a mile and a half until they could raise sails. It’s a circus of the absurd, definitely worth a watch of the videos. (Check our social media. Like, share, and subscribe.) 

And then, they were gone… but gradually. 

The winds that had raged in the days before had subsided to a pleasant/ frustrating 5 knot breeze from the west that curled around into a following breeze into the Greater Haro Strait Metropolitan area. Teams with sails popped their spinnakers as they made the right turn on either side of Trial Island’s left turn. Mostly. The notable exception was Team Barely Heumann’s decision to just keep pedaling despite his ability to deploy a sail in the following breeze: “It’s kind of a hassle, and I’m just getting started.”


TBH’s pedaled course took him within a shank and a half of the manicured golf course of the links on Gonzales Point. On a good day he looks like a rich metaphor of can do, to the golfing farsightedness of the 12th fairway he may just look like the golf ball they lost on the last drive. 

For the rest of the daylight hours of Day One, the rest of the fleet made the most of the least nature had to offer. Sails up until it doesn’t make sense, then to the oars and pedals. Then sails again, then back to the muscles. Then back again. And again. And again. Three hours into Stage One maintaining race speed called for humble flexibility.  

If you’ve never rowed a racing sailboat, it’s a little like washing your only pair of underwear in your motel room’s bathroom sink: you can do it if you have to, but it feels like exposed failure, and at least a little shameful; especially when you go to brush your teeth. It’s necessary and practical, but no one wants it on their Instagram. 

The exception to the rule might be Team Sailor Swift’s rare, but emerging practice of grilling while rowing. There aren’t many applications in competitive rowing where GrillrowingTM is possible, let alone practical, but it surprisingly is when you find yourself at the center of the Venn diagram of zero wind, on a Race to Alaska sailboat, before the chicken goes bad. 

The rest of Day One is etched into the tracks of the tracker. As night fell on Day One, red and green bow lights weaved their way through the sleepy islands of the Gulf Islands, silently, slowly, steadily. Residents slept on, unaware that a monumental adventure was unfolding a golf ball’s drive off from their house—unless they were part of Tracker Nation, then they were glued to their screens and couldn’t sleep like the rest of us. 

The question on everyone’s mind is when will the leaders get to Seymour Narrows? Depending on where you look, the weather forecast ranges between decent wind and another day of teams washing their underwear in the proverbial sink. Only time will tell.

We know that there’s a favorable tide in the Narrows at 4 pm, and then another 6-ish hours later. The actual answer is locked in the future, but we’re so desperate to know that we’re licking our Ouija Board. So far it hasn’t given us new answers, but it does pass the time.  

So far our tongue is telling us that Team Malolo will likely hit the Narrows late today, or tomorrow, we’re still pulling bits of Oujia Board off our tongue—we’re not going to put money on it. Not that we would. Probably. Trust in the multiverse. Five bucks.

Day One is in the bag, another bag’s worth tomorrow. 

R2AK out. 

Header photo by Jay Blackmore

Cuts From Course@200x