View the R2AK cancellation policy here.
Update from the Race Boss, April 24, 2020
There are two ways to say this:
- R2AK and SEVENTY48 are canceled in 2020.
- R2AK and SEVENTY 2020 aren’t canceled, but you can’t cross the starting line until 2021.
Either way, Race to Alaska and SEVENTY48 are not running this year. Beyond the barrage of fan/hate mail for putting off the decision until now, we’ve been working behind the scenes weighing ethical and practical issues and holding hope in a chaotic environment. These days, finding answers is like reading tea leaves while skydiving. Foregoing the near impossibility of getting leaves to stay in the bottom of a cup, when we did, we were left with answers like, “bird, Aries, purification, wheel”—oddly on par for this virus. In the end, we switched back to coffee and chose to answer the same questions we ask of racers when racing:
Can we do this? Yes or No.
Is it worth the risk? Yes or No.
Can we survive this? Yes or No.
If you haven’t guessed, you need a triple affirmative before pushing away from your last success. The first error leading to any great debacle is often a simple decision compounding into a chain of errors leading to a free-fall, tea-leaf dive reading, “spiral, anchor, knots, stop.” (Which is apparently bad.)
Race heroics are often race jeopardy, and we refuse to gamble with others’ lives without their consent. We could race; there is a route around all the closures, but, like driving with your feet, could isn’t should, and it’s not worth the risk for racers or communities along the way.
Out of all the scenarios, pandemic was not a culprit calculated to close our races. It’s the correct and painful decision whose wake leaves us formulating our next steps. Dates are already set for next year (June 7, 2021) and barring, I don’t know, gigantic dinosaur extinguishing comets, we will be on the water in 2021 taking pictures like tourists and high fiving finishers. We hope to see you all there, and stay tuned for next steps.
In the meantime, we still plan on honoring the humans who signed up for 2020 and delighting/angering our fans by completing the bios for this year. Sure, there’s no race, but these people are still awesome, and you should know about them. We’re also working on some other content to keep ourselves busy and the R2AK nation remotely together.
It’s an ironic/dated phrase at this point, but we’ll be in touch.
Daniel Evans, Race Boss
Update from the Race Boss, April 10, 2020
Over here at Races High Command we turn on every computer monitor and radio, set them all to news stations and spin in circles until we find a station that is not reporting on COVID-19; we are still spinning.
It’s because this virus is no joke. The total of fatalities in New York has now exceeded the terrorist bombing of the Twin Towers on September 11. Canadian borders remain closed to visitors. The Washington Governor has extended the statewide Shelter In-place order. State Parks, like our SEVENTY48 race site, Blake Island, remains closed. The Heiltsuk Nation, which includes the R2AK waypoint of Bella Bella, issued a bylaw closing their territory to non-Heiltsuk populations.
No corner or map edge is safe from the virus.
So, why are we holding out against all this evidence?
We’re not really ‘holding out.’ We are paying attention. We are measuring the distance between the do’s and don’t, can’t and won’t, want to and why risk it. Words like miraculous exist because events happen that can only be described as extraordinary, astounding, incredible and, well, miraculous. We are waiting because, despite the obvious, we can wait.
We love the waters these races traverse and have spent many years upon them. We wouldn’t run the races if they endangered communities. The fact that we haven’t made our decision has no bearing on our sensitivities to rural communities along the route or local and federal laws; it is tied to the fact that this pandemic changes every day and if we can wait to make a more informed decision, we will. And we can wait, a little while longer. On April 24th we’ll be announcing the final and permanent decision on R2AK and SEVENTY48 for 2020. Until April 24th all application and registration processes will be suspended.
A few weeks ago I said to cross the start line is to win, and this race is personal. Those sentiments have not changed—the theater, the context, and the reference all have. COVID-19 has demoted the individual triumph and elevated the collective. Where once a person found strength from deep within has now been replaced with the community stronghold we find around us—its ability to painfully contort to new norms and sacrifice comfort for the safety of the group, be it town, state, or country. What is noble, what is hero, is, for now, defined more wholly in the collective of our communities. The gambling, judgment, and risk of our races are real, but we draw the line if our risk threatens those who have not signed up for such treatment.
Until the 24th, we keep spinning through the media cycles. We do everything we can to protect ourselves and those around us. We honor our communities, small and large. We look for hope in every cranny, and seek, in the end, to keep it real.
Update from the Race Boss, March 20, 2020
To the R2AK faithful united in isolation,
The echo in the pasta aisle is new, as are the nods and waves which have taken the place of handshakes and bearhugs. Port Townsend, home to the R2AK’s race start and SEVENTY48’s epic finish line, is usually a huggy place. Illness epicenters have a way of changing that, and it has. COVID is real in every direction of our reality, in our wallet, our food, our friends. It dangles on the edge of our thoughts, sits at the back of our tongues and rings in our ears. My ears ring because the media refuse to talk about anything else. But it’s affecting our race, too.
The presence of COVID-19 began as a distant cry and has grown into this thundering beast clearing our streets and emptying workplaces, but look, I’m going to lead with the punchline: Race to Alaska and SEVENTY48 are happening until they are not. In fact, I won’t cancel a race unless there is a directive levied against the activity from some body of governance that has the chops to levy it or, its termination serves to lessen the exposure to COVID.
In defense of our race, and the value of it running as planned, I offer the following ripostes:
“Find a better way to experience extreme social distancing.”
“It’s a needed family break from what has turned into a six-month summer vacation for our kids.”
“The races are custom-designed entertainment for the masses of forced and self-isolated victims worldwide.”
This is the low hanging fruit, my friend. The real reasons?
First, ask yourself: Why do you race? Why do you watch racers? What attracts you to adventure? These races reflect many elements of the human condition and the human heart. Some are easy to tick off: meeting challenges head-on, the losing of oneself in a greater landscape, the power afforded to a person for having just done it. Overcoming even those goals is not to be taken lightly, but I feel my answer to these questions is more full-throated, not presented as an opposition, but an alternative to what our society is facing.
I want to fire that starting gun into the unpredictable skies of June because to not try is to lose already, and to cross the start line is to win. We’ll keep the “it’s a boat race” charade for the tourists, but this is a race of one racer at a time taking this moment to say, “I’m better than I was five minutes ago, and I just need to make it another five minutes.” Half-million-dollar boats jockey at the starting line with dories dragged from under grandparents’ lake house porches. And. We. Don’t. Care. This is a race of celebration, where I get to be part of a team without having to sit in their cockpit and eat their food. I get to cry at the triumph and tragedy of people I hardly know. Why would I? Because WE are racing to Alaska. And that ‘we’ is unity, across borders, fiber optics, and satellites. That we is us, and I yearn to stand shoulder to shoulder with champions of human nature; with people courageous and passionate and loving and present. Feet firmly on the earth, eyes looking forward. Arms interlocked—and yes, that can be metaphoric—because when we are on the water together, we represent one thing: the desire for all of us to be better than we were five minutes ago.
In a time when it feels like we, as a civilization, are going nowhere, I want that start gun to remind us that we can be stronger together, in every sense. And even if I have to high five you standing six feet apart, it will thunder with love and admiration, and never with fear. We are all far too beautiful of creatures to expect otherwise. Come race day, it may look like a different day than what we have experienced in the five years of running these races. However, these races are steeped in the traditions of audacity, why would we expect anything else? I’ll see you in June.
More sincerely than usual,
Daniel Evans, Race Boss
P.S. In case schools are still in lockdown, yes, your kids can come race, but we’ll be vetting them too!