Stage 2, Day 9: The Kids, the Stench, and the Comfort

Like the difference in the water between calms and storms, R2AK can be drastically different experiences—even in the same year, even in teams finishing close to one another. Day Eight’s finish line proved a study in stark contrasts. We can’t make this stuff up. 

The Kids.

In the three hours between 06:00 and 09:00 local time, the three teams that skipped school to make up the R2AK’s Junior Achievement League crossed the line and ended one of the most epic battles in R2AK history. Three teams of teens, recent teens, and Chris, finished in Ketchikan after eight days and 700+ miles of hard-fought racing. It was an epic moment for the race, the racers, and families.

Before we glow up the racers, shout out to their parents who were at the finish line, at least an hour early. They were on the dock seven days before in Victoria; nervous, proud, nervous, and nervous, and proud. After a hard swallow and as many last hugs as would be tolerated, they sent off their children into an unsupported race on a remote coast. The next week was inevitably spent ping-ponging between bottomless worry and unfathomed pride. As the honorary funcle of the fleet, we were the same. Those kids did great. 

By 5 AM and change, the PTA of the R2AK was on the dock, early but ready to shower their children in support. As each team crossed the finish line their parents went from expectant adults to “OH MY GOD THEY’RE HEEEEERE!” fan girls. Enthusiasm and relief poured out in simultaneous enthusiasm. This was a big day. Teams Rock the Boat, Juvenile Delinquents, and Roscoe Pickle Train had graduated. Some of them for the second time, one for the third. and some of them weren’t old enough to drive. 

What were/are you doing at 15? 

It’s impossible to overstate that the teams’ finish marked a transition. Regardless of their age, the teams went from ambitious sailors to R2AK veterans, a rare honor for anyone, but especially for the U-25 set (and Chris). They had just done something incredible; they were the same people they were a week ago, but different. 

First across the line was Team Rock the Boat, followed two hours later by Team Juvenile Delinquents. Both teams were met with hugs, cheers, and well-earned adulations. They were also met with parentally driven caloric love: freshly baked cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, 6 AM hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, grilled fresh on a dockside hibachi. Also, there were cookies. Everyone ate everything, but on brand as ever, Henry from TRTB ate cookies, almost exclusively. This time he did leave some for the rest of them. 

The surprise dockside consumption: carrots. 

Indulgence is relative, and Team Juvenile Delinquents had eaten so much “mush food” that they craved something with crunch. It was as fair a request as it was odd to see teens with carrots hanging out of their mouths like congratulatory cigars. Kids these days with their vices. In contrast, Team Roscoe Pickle Train hit the dock and drank pickle juice, straight from the jar. 

Beyond the food at the finish, a few things were obvious to onlookers: 

This had been a race. Since the start in Victoria, these three teams were race-on, covering each other’s tacks, swapping leads, for 700 miles. Some of the best racing in this year’s R2AK, complete with juice boxes.

They were as collaborative as they were competitive. In the last night of racing, competition was fierce, but Rock The Boat and Juvenile Delinquents traded snacks as they crossed tacks. When Roscoe Pickle Train’s captain lost a game of “Boom vs Head,” Rock the Boat ducked in and made sure they were ok. Classy. Team Rock the Boat hatched a plan to swap boats with the Pickles, just to confuse people. It never materialized. “This was a post-concussion plan.”  

These folks were racers first and young people second. During the debriefs on the dock, reliving past tactics amongst the teams, teens blended with previous finishers who were genuinely curious, respectful, and proud to have shared a race with them. From the curiosity of tactics to the good-natured ribbing, these were peers—not children. 

Three stories worth sharing: 

  1. Generation Dougherty: The family’s two kids raced together as Team Rite of Passage in 2022. This year they diversified their risk profile and put their fertilized eggs in two baskets. Francesca skippered the high school summer camp that was Team Rock the Boat, and Enzo stocked up on sanitizer and braved the floating carnie convention of Team Roscoe Pickle Train. The Boat Rockers outpaced the Pickles by hours, but only after TRPT spent 16 hours in Bella Bella recovering from Odin’s boom-related concussion. We truly look forward to facilitating future years of sibling rivalry/bonding in the future. 
  1. Krüger Family Dynasty: For days, Dagny Krüger had been leading Team Juvenile Delinquents and absolutely destroying the competition, overtaking the rest of the youth fleet only to lose position in an overnight tacking duel in light air. We lose to them pedaling.” There was also a crack in the hull that showed up in the last couple of days, and Team Juvy had six inches of water in the bilge. “It was wet.” 

    The last time we saw Dagny at the finish line was in 2017. She was a 9-year old, hugging her dad who had just spent a little under two weeks racing unsupported to Alaska on a paddleboard—a feat that has yet to be approximated let alone replicated. Today, Karl is a steak-knife-winning member of Team Brio who finished a few days ago, and a proud dad whose daughter had just led a youth team to Race to Alaska glory. Today’s hug was no less intense, only today, they were both family and peers. 

    We’re not crying, you’re crying. 
  1. Team Roscoe Pickle Train: It saddens us to only have a few more paragraphs to make fun of Team Roscoe Pickle Train—the most likely of these three teams to be cast as “After” for R2AK’s forthcoming stay in school/don’t do drugs ad campaign. 

    Port Townsend’s own, we’ve watched their progress for years, but especially the skipper Odin Smith. We’ve known Odin since he was a small person in the programs of Northwest Maritime, R2AK’s parent non-profit that supports maritime school and summer programs in western Washington. R2AK met Odin as the cocky 16-year-old who talked his way aboard Team Ziska in 2019. Today, he’s a cocky 21-year-old who can actually back it up. Sailing ruffian and talented member of PT’s storied marine trades community, in the rare moments he’s not talking, you can recognize Odin by his double-winged neck tattoo. If you meet a blonde guy with a nose ring who looks like he is smuggling a tiny Viking in his shirt, make sure to congratulate him on his third R2AK. 

    R2AK’s love language is a good-natured roast, but we have to pause to give respect where respect is due. At 21, this was his third Race to Alaska, and his first as captain. He and his crew spent the year fixing up a boat to make it bomb proof then sailed the shit out of it. As talented as they are ridiculous, they donned sauna hats they picked up in Victoria for the finish. Why? Our guess is that it was dumb, loud, and functional—R2AK source code. “They are literally the only dry things we have.”

    Like the teams that sailed in before them, the Pickles also had a fair amount of water in the bilge. Was it salty? “Yes.” Like urine? “No.” See you when you get back home, you crazy diamonds.   

As easy as it is to make caricatures of these teams, they all had one thing in common, their cabins smelled absolutely disgusting—all sharing the seven-day olfactory funk that can only be described as the sum total of bad ventilation, musty humans, and at least one lost game of “Where’s that sandwich?” The sole boards were covered in a sporadic and non-specific paste of sand, soggy trail mix, and errant body hair. No screen time until you clean your respective rooms. That goes for you too, Chris. 


While age and stench were the “We are the World” factors that brought the young teams together, the two other teams who sailed in today couldn’t have been more different than their approach to the race. Team Spare Parts arrived in high spirits, and hands down has the honor of being the hardest core team to make it to Ketchikan this, and potentially any, year. Their Peterson 27 was designed for daysailing but they took it to Alaska. Their R2AK box score reads like a series of one-star reviews.

Wet. There’s no cabin. There’s barely a semi-protected forward hatch area that they could sleep in if it wasn’t too rough. When it was rough, they just slept in the cockpit, waves crashing over them until they woke up.  

Cold. Without a way to get out of the elements, they were always cold, and mildly hypothermic at least some times. They wore everything. “12 layers, I was wearing all the clothes” They also discovered a non-standard clothing order. “I ended up with light layers under my drysuit, then my thick pants over the dry suit, then my foulies over that.” They just slept in their drysuits, in all the clothes, which helped cushion them from the bumps and deck hardware they were sleeping on because they didn’t seem to have sleeping pads. “My ass has issues now.”

Sleep deprivation. They started Stage One with two hours of sleep, and it didn’t get better. Their boat is an active sailer and takes at least two but often three to make it move, and they got worn down. Halfway in, they instituted better sleeping schedules. “We were getting three-hour naps at least once a day.” That’s right, three hours a night was an improvement. It still wasn’t enough, so when fatigue hit, all of them would spell each other for micro naps. “They’d say ‘Take 10 minutes,’ and I’d just fall asleep right there.” The benefit of being that tired is that you can fall asleep anywhere. The risk of being that tired is that you can fall asleep anywhere. One night, both the person pedaling and the person steering simultaneously fell asleep. No idea how long, but they left a figure eight on their track before they woke up. “We didn’t run into anything!” 

They were so sleep-deprived that they hallucinated they saw people on the shore that turned out to be bushes, so tired that they fell asleep mid-chew and woke up an unknown amount of time later with uneaten food in their mouths. 

Food. It was such active sailing that rather than meals they just ate handfuls of whatever. Peanuts, frosted mini wheats, “We were eating sour candies for breakfast.”

Poop. Blame it on sleep deprivation, but there was a lot of talk about poop. With no head and no way to go below, it was an on-deck, community bonding affair, with diminishing accuracy as conditions deteriorated and fatigue mounted. “Yesterday, I got it all over the oars…” Gross, but a problem that solved itself with all the water that was washing over them.

Would they do it again? 

“No.” But one of them is sailing it back. 

“It’s pretty cool going surfing in all your camping gear”


There was a much different vibe as the Instagram grillathon that is Team Sailor Swift arrived at the dock four hours later in matching shirts and custom team red Fluevogs. Their Ross 930 had a cabin, a head, a heater, a galley, enough bunks below that they didn’t have to share, and enough food left over from the third grilled chicken they made underway to have chicken salad for lunch, on plates. They had enough power left over that they played music on their stereo as they approached (“We listened to music the whole time!”) and enough beer left over that they donated a few to the stash we hand out to racers on the finish line. There was a collective jawdrop that extended from Team Juvenile Delinquents to Team Spare Parts, who seemed to be both jealous and just realizing that they could have done it differently. Not necessarily faster, but differently.  

Would Team Sailor Swift trade their 11th-place finish in comfort for the 10th place, sleep wet, and poop on the oar experience of Team Spare Parts? “Absolutely not.”

Team Guardian Sailing finished at 06:16 on Day 9, minutes after the cutoff for the written update. You can hear about them a little later down the line. 


Header photo by Taylor Bayly

Cuts From Course@200x
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Malolo approaches Seymour Narrows

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Team Natural Disaster thought about pulling a Moitessier

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“Welcome to glamping R2AK style” – a boat tour with Team Norepinephrine.

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Don’t take candy from strangers, unless you’re Team Stranger Danger and you just completed R2AK