Stage 2, Day 2: The bikiest sailing race on the planet

Not that we had a solid bid to begin with, but whatever chance there was for the Race to Alaska to be inducted into the Society of Normal Sailing Races may just have been destroyed during the course of Day 2. Our inside source said that given the heavy weather and safe resolution of the few incidents we had during the Proving Grounds, they might be able to overlook our few transgressions, including the fact that not everyone is sailing, but most of the boats are, at least on paper, sailboats. It seemed to satisfy them that we only had three human power boats in the fleet, less than 10%. They’re trying to be more inclusive. 

We were informed that Normal Sailing Races need at least two things to be considered for membership and the sport coat:

  1. Wind
  2. Boats that don’t mostly pedal. 

As dawn broke on R2AK’s second day, it became clear to everyone on both sides of our application that we had very little of either. Better luck next year.

Light winds that might have seemed both impossible and welcome during the wind-powered washing machine that was the Proving Grounds became somewhere between the norm and aspirational during the second day of Stage 2. Just two days after full-on gales there were pockets of wind, but like women’s pants—the pockets were barely there and not that useful. 

Pedaling was the fanny pack solution of Day 2’s low-to-no-wind reality; practical but not attractive. 

Yes, we’re talking about the sailboats. The human-powered set were thrilled, or at least less miserable. For a large part of the day Team Boogie Barge had muscled their way into the front third of the field, in front of a number of “sail”boats. They had broken into shifts, pedaling, rowing, and living with their life choices. Specifically the reality of pedaling to Alaska, on purpose, and on a boat whose only sleeping quarters is inches away from the constant whir of human powered machinery. Flat calm in protected waters, this was their day. They even saw whales. 

For the majority it was another day of sink-washed underwear. If Stage One was a test of how safe you could be in the harshest conditions, so far Stage Two has been a test of how to move when the wind isn’t blowing. How did it go? Solid C.

  • Team Malolo’s wind rocket lacked rocket fuel for takeoff and pedaled for most of the way to get to Seymour Narrows. Nothing broken, but it was like pushing a Lamborghini down the Autobahn and saying “Vrooom.”
  • Team Skofitig had drive issues, likely damaged bearings. He made a stop near Nanaimo to inspect. No news on resolution. 
  • Team Stranger Danger’s custom-printed drive system threw a belt, fix status unknown. 
  • Team Outtaspace is outta pedal drives. Proving crime doesn’t pay, the one they stole from Team Loose Screws in Victoria no longer is functional.
  • Team Only Lubbers broke both drives, fixed them, then promptly went for a swim in celebration. Because racing. 
  • Team Roscoe Pickle Train’s drive broke and was fixed. Twice. They also broke whatever hope and innocence was left in R2AK’s high command. See below:

Let us set the scene: the final embers of a gorgeous sunset, in one of the most stunning bits of scenery on the planet. Sailing along and out on the trapeze, the talented armpit fart that is Team Rosco Pickle Train decided to enter themselves in the record books with three simultaneous firsts:

  1. Take a crap while in the trapeze. 
  2. Film it. 
  3. Send it to us. 

It started ok, a well composed shot of someone’s silhouette backlit by the sunset.  Then the silhouette grew a silhouetted tail, then the tail fell off, and then we vomited. 

It was the best executed version of The Worst Thing. Simultaneously innovative and reductive, it required a level of teamwork that until this point had never been considered possible. Someone had to sail, someone had to do it, and another had to film. Say what you will about Gen Z, but they are collaborative. And no, we are not sharing that video. Absolutely not. We’re throwing ourselves on that like it’s a grenade. We’re pretty sure we got pinkeye just from watching. 

Outside of bicycle adjacent calamity and scatalogical concept art (yes, we’re being generous), we know of a few other things that went wrong today:

  • The torpedo test area “Whiskey Golf” was active, causing teams to avoid the exact right spot to travel to avoid being arrested/torpedoed. 
  • With a broken forestay and 600-miles to go, Team Natural Disaster faced a choice: press on and have their mast fall over naturally, or make a four-hour pit stop to fix it. They chose Option B, betraying their name but averting disaster. 
  • Team Sailor Swift barbecued, again, and broke the record for number of barbecues in the first two days of the R2AK. (Two, if math isn’t your thing.)

In news from the front: the tidal traffic light to the northern ¾’s of the course that is Seymour Narrows shined red for Team Malolo, who were seen sailing downwind, and occasionally backwards as the wind died and the current built on the approach to Seymour Narrows. With flashbacks to 2022, the Malolos pedaled the last miles only to wait in the anchorage that serves as the Narrows’ awkward waiting room.

As it did two years ago, this allowed the four boat chase pack to close the lead from 20+ miles to five before the tidal gate opened again. Malolo went through around midnight, Teams Hulabaloo and Narrows Minded were through an hour later, Stranger Danger and Brio shortly after that. At time of writing Malolo has opened up the gap again down Johnstone, but not from fancy sailing or top end boat speed. In a moment that’s as head scratchy as any, the notorious blow hole that is Johnstone Strait is flat calm. Teams are pedaling through. 

Johnstone’s typically strong winds, violent seas, and raging current has been the lion just inside of the gates of Seymour; broken masts, smashed boats, and over the years more than a few teams have been consumed in Johnstone, but today the lion slept. Nice kitty. 

At the start of R2AK’s third day the top five teams are only separated by 15-miles. 400+ miles to go, this is still anyone’s race. 

R2AK out.

Cuts From Course@200x

The Admirals of Disco are back! This time with a fresh track about Seymour Narrows tidal gate. We dare you not to dance!

Header photo by Shelley Lipke