Stage 2, Day 11: Phantom whispers of the Grim Sweeper, eau de Ketchikan and some magic.

Halfway point, folks. The moment where some next level magic happens, or the gremlins in the gears start dancing. It’s at this point minds begin to wander back to the start in Port Townsend, even as their eyes stay glued to the Ketchikan finish line. Sitting somewhere in a dark corner, perhaps an old woodshed or an oily engine room, a figure sharpens a scythe. Whispers and questions about this phantom and its plans have made their way to Race High Command in the form of comments, emails, phone calls—perhaps prayers. 

Enter: The Grim Sweeper.
Departing Port Townsend at High Noon on June 25, it’s a relentless 75-miles per day march to Ketchikan, scythe swinging at the finish line dock at noon on July 5.

The R2AK juice gains some more subtle notes now. Like a vintage wine hitting peak flavor or a sunset’s best hues popping only as the sun dips below the horizon, Race to Alaska hits its stride in the middle.

Eleven days ago thirty-two bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teams buzzed with excitement at Victoria’s docks, amped up and ready to launch into the unknown. Now they’ve all aged—grayer hairs and new wrinkles have appeared. Perhaps they’ve discovered things about themselves, their boats, their pedal drives. Maybe they’ve learned to sail. Out of those 32 teams, seven have thrown in the towel—many already plotting their 2026 revenge. Fourteen teams have savored the sweet taste of victory and the unique aroma of Ketchikan (think wood chips and fish). Eleven (fewer by now) teams are still slugging it out on the course. Team Outtaspace is the farthest flung, with over 350 miles to go. Pull out your abacus, do math.

Last night the tracker promised a flurry of arrivals every two hours starting at 10 pm, and the Finish Line Faithful braced for a long night of hollering into the Alaskan darkness. But only one team emerged–: Team Sail Like A Mother. Having wrestled with the 8-foot swells of the Hecate Rodeo on their final push, they arrived in matching yellow drysuits, drained but triumphant. Exhausted and elated, only hot burritos and cold beers–courtesy of Melissa’s husband–provided respite.

Ketchikan is about to get lively again. Teams Only Lubbers Left Alive and Wicked Wily Wildcat are just miles from the finish, fighting the current and wrong-way winds at the time of this writing. Not far behind are Teams Knot So Fast and Norepinephrine. A bit more distant, having lost some time rescuing a stranded kayaker and his dog near Bella Bella, is Team Loose Screw.

So here we are, race fans. Drink a Red Bull, roll down the driver’s side window to keep awake. We’ve still got a long way to go.


Header photo by Taylor Bayly

Cuts From Course@200x