Stage 2, Day 4: More Biking–Now with Rain

Either this is the most wind-starved Race to Alaska in recent memory or we’re suffering from early onset whatever it’s called. 

Seriously though, it’s like the wind was cut off because we forgot to pay the bill. Not a great look for a race that bills itself as “the most hardcore, go if you dare, ‘there be dragons,’ bronco-busting boat rodeo.” With a normal year’s wind, R2AK goes through places so terrifying that they are the scary bedtime stories for the monsters that live under your bed. 

The monsters in the R2AK are many. The deadly currents of Seymour Narrows. Oooh! The notorious headwinds and massive seas of Johnstone Strait. Ahhhh! The exposed crossing to Cape Caution, and the Cape itself; the anvil the Pacific hammers into storm after ferocious storm. Gasp! Hecate Strait, the punching bag of the Pacific that routinely passes on the abuse to whatever vessel dares venture into it. Poop!

Except for this year.

This year our monsters were inflatable, our wolves were labradoodles. It’s like the entire BC coast forgot to put in its dentures, did a crossword, then went back to bed. 

The only minor adversity that it could muster: intermittent rain. An inconvenience that ranks somewhere between mosquito and fruit fly in the weighted ranking of R2AK monsters. That’s all we got to try to amp up the adventure of this thing. Here goes (and we think this works best if you say it in a monster truck commercial voice):

It’s crazy out there! Some hardcore teams got hardcore wet, hardcore occasionally! You didn’t know if they were going to sail and then pedal, or pedal then sail! But it’s raining! Sometimes!

We tried.

There wasn’t no wind today, just not Bond villain wind, and not for long enough for bikes not to be a factor. Do you know who’s not sad that the big winds this race is known for never showed up? Our insurance guy, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the loved ones of everyone on the course. Happy Father’s Day.

Weather pity party over, here’s what is happening:

Things keep breaking. Given the sail/pedal ratio of this race, pedal-drive-fatigue-failure makes sense, especially high twitch, high horsepower custom jobs like the ones designed, built, and now broken by Team Stranger Danger. At last report they were still hunting for a passing yacht they could scavenge from. Team Loose Screw continues its on-brand relationship with its pedal drive, and is currently in search of a pedal after it lost itself then failed to float. Paradoxically, at least Teams Bonesaw and Sail Like a Mother have tears in their sail; seemingly caused more by boredom than continual abuse by the elements. If you just opened a sail/pedal repair shop in the greater Telegraph Cove Metropolitan area, you can put your family’s worries to rest. You’ve made a smart choice after all. This is your week. 

The run for the money. As of the morning of Day Four, Team Malolo and the chase pack have punched into clear air and sea room of Hecate Strait. The forecast is, let’s all say it together: light; 5-10 knots, but then building to 10-15 later in the afternoon. Light, but wind, real wind. Our check must have finally cleared. 

For what it’s worth, in terms of miles, Bella Bella is R2AK’s hump day. In terms of elapsed time to finish, for the teams heading offshore Bella Bella this is the first page of their final chapter. Tight quarters and tidal, the rest of the course is intricate, nuanced, subtle. Calm or storms, Hecate Strait is about as subtle as a rhino playing piano.

Team Malolo punched into Hecate around 4 am, Team Hulabaloo a couple hours later. Team Brio’s gamble to go outside of Calvert and Hunter Islands paid off. Taking advantage of cleaner air they successfully dodged the rocks in Bella Bella’s southern approach, and outpaced Team Stranger Danger’s diminished pedal driven horsepower to slide into a well-earned 3rd place. In a two-year-old quote that 48° North Editor Joe Cline definitely won’t remember saying: “Schock 40s point to the moon.” With 300 miles of upwind sailing ahead of them, Team Stranger Danger has a chance of regaining ground before the wind dies north of Dixon Entrance. It’s still anyone’s race, but as of now it’s looking like Team Malolo’s race to lose for the money, Team Hulabaloo for the knives, and Team Brio for the dubious honor of first team not to win anything. 

The kids table. Behind the lead pack is the fleet of SC27s that is the closest we have ever come to a one design race. A day or so behind the lead pack, this four-boat, cage match/food fight is some of the best racing in the whole fleet and metaphorical kids table of the R2AK. They are still a part of things, but off to the side and in the other room at the folding table. 

Team Natural Disaster is giving some adult cousin, “Why are we still here in our 30s?” vibes and is taking the route to the outside of Calvert Island looking for clear air leaving the younger teams who are heading up the inside route. “Stop copying me!” is written all over their course choice. 

The high achieving teens on Team Rock the Boat duking it out with Stinky Cousin Roscoe continue to elbow each other over dinner rolls when mom isn’t looking in what continues to be the closest contest of the race. They’ve traded leads a number of times since Johnstone Strait rounded Cape Caution and remain within sight of each other on the Bella Bella approach. Lapping at their heels is the impressive performance of Team Juvenile Delinquents, who, under the leadership of 16-year-old captain, Dagny Kruger, have regained serious miles over the last day and remain very much in the race. 

R2AK’s clickbait news of the day:

MOTHERS SLEEP WITH CANADIAN NAVY On the morning of Day 3 Teams Sail Like a Mother and Victory Oar Duff were both found asleep on the dock in Nanaimo. We spotted the Duffers crashed out on the dock in matching camouflage sleeping bags. Paradoxically, the Mothers were harder to spot inside their uncamouflaged boat.

DAY DRINKING Jim from Team Barely Heumann had two margaritas (plus fish and chips) during day two of his tour of duty at Nanaimo’s Dinghy Dock Bar. No word on when karaoke starts.

FOREIGN TEAMS POUR INTO R2AK Beyond the diversity of boats, in the last 48 hours we’ve posted interviews conducted in three languages (four if you count American) and the race has teams from five countries. When we started this thing we were thrilled when we had representation from both parts of North America. Now look at us, as international as a house of pancakes. 


Day 4 and the race is still racing. We’re as bad at what we’re about to do as we are confident in our ability to do it, but our well-licked Ouija board is telling us that the finish will be sometime during daylight Monday; a safe bet considering it doesn’t get dark until 11 pm in Ketchikan. 

300 upwind miles to go, but at least there’s wind. 

R2AK out. 

CORRECTION: In yesterday’s update we incorrectly reported that Team Sailor Swift did not barbecue on Day Three. They did. All are safe, and well, and grilling. We are sorry for any undue stress our false reporting caused for their loved ones. 

UPDATE: Early morning of the 16th Team Barely Heumann let us know that he was retiring from the race, answering the classic riddle we just made up: “How do you escape from an escape pod?” Jim’s not escaping, he’s just turning around and beginning a new tradition of the C2PT, cruise to Port Townsend. He always was in his own race, traveling at the speed of Jim. This morning he realized it wasn’t going to math up to 750 miles in time to beat the sweeper. That, and there are some fantastic pubs in the Gulf Islands. Time to turn around, there’s the smell of fish and chips on the breeze. 

Header photo by Taylor Bayly

Cuts From Course@200x