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Enzo & Francesca’s Race to Alaska Adventure

Updates from Sailing Dad Michael

June 2022

sailing boat race from seattle to alaska
Sailing race to alaska from Seattle
1) The team was praised by just about everyone for showing the good judgment to wait in Port Townsend during that first crazy day – a day that featured Coast Guard helicopter rescues, dismastings, and other madness.
“At time of writing roughly half of the fleet is licking their wounds and waiting to make it to Stage One’s finish line; 20 or so have made the solid decision to wait until the weather mellows to make the jump to the Canadian promised land; with the wind and swells pegged at DEFCON Bonkers, most folks figured that the land of socialized medicine, hollandaise everything, and maple syrup can wait for a least another sunrise. Write-in frontrunner for Most Impressive Judgment Regardless of Age: Mustang Survival’s Team Rite of Passage leaned on their average 16.5 years of life experience and after starting the race at 5 am, returned to the same marina at 0510 to tie up, eat breakfast, and avoid the maelstrom that met the rest. Their parents and an internet of tracker fans gushed with relief and pride. Kids going to be alright.”
This video recaps that first stage – the team is described as exhibiting ‘one of the best pieces of seamanship’ that day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhht7vdv0iQ
This King5 Evening spot also aired on Day 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9LZVcaI1eI.
The team watched it from the hotel room and were cracking up at the Tarantino-esque slow-mo bit.

2) On Day 2 the team set out early to cross to Victoria, but learned shortly after departing that after the Day 1 shenanigans, the Coast Guard (who presumably needed sleep) were prohibiting any racers from crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. So the team made their way west, anchoring at Dungeness spit to set themselves up for the run to Victoria on Day 3. They awoke at 3 the next morning after a bouncy night at anchor and reached Victoria around 11:30 am.

sailing race from seattle to alaska
race to alaska from seattle sailing

So far, so good – but they were supposed to have 3 days in Victoria and now had 24 hours, and needed to sleep, attend a safety meeting, and pack and unpack and repack the boat enough times that I began to call them “Team Rite of Packing”, and the R2AK folks said they looked like they were having a yard sale:

sailing race from seattle to alaska

But they were not the only ones: many boats had sustained damage in the crossing, and the sound of grinders, drills, and hacksaws paired with the aroma of 3M 5200 and epoxy and all kinds of other marine goop and the spectacle of people working at the tops of masts, working underwater, and everywhere in between to give the docks that R2AK circus atmosphere. One of my favorite bits were the various pedal drives, many of which a friend described as “looking like a middle school drama set piece”. Some of my favorites:

sailing race from seattle to alaska

One of the things I love about R2AK is that aside from a handful of carbon-fiber-everything, super-pricey race boats, most of the boats are pretty old and let’s charitably say ‘far out on the depreciation curve’, with many (including the kids’) dating to the 1970s – and as Catherine noted, many of the rest look like they were built 3 weeks ago. I love the race’s ‘take the boat you have, bolt on some bikes you stole’ ethos.

3) Next day at noon, after a proper English beans-on-toast breakfast at my friend Aaron’s place (thank you Aaron and fam for letting us invade your home and detonate cluster bombs of boat stuff everywhere!), they took off. They were quick off the docks and pedaled like demons and briefly led the fleet.

sailing race from seattle to alaska
sailing race from seattle to alaska

Winds were light so we were able to follow them along the coast for several hours that first day:

sailing race from seattle to alaska

4) Friday morning we returned to Seattle via Nanaimo, getting one last glimpse of the team as they passed through Dodd Narrows, a crazy tidal gate only 200 feet across. We later learned that a pod of orcas swam through right after we left.

sailing race from seattle to alaska
sailing race from seattle to alaska

This 2nd day another 4 teams dropped out. Two were damaged by floating logs, of which there have been an unprecedented amount this year; one was dismasted, and another capsized. It was already an eventful year and we were happy the team didn’t have any major issues.

5) At this point they became Team “Rid of Parents” as we headed back to Seattle. We have very little contact with them, usually one text per day that might say only “all is going well”. The parent group is collectively getting very little sleep as we all obsessively watch the tracker at all hours and eagerly await any new Instagram posts or other news. But some things to recap:
  • Later on Friday they had a lovely delivery of cookies from Jeanne Goussev, captain of team Sail Like a Girl that won in 2016. Jeanne has been wonderfully helpful and supportive. Video here.
  • Sunday at 4am they transited Seymour Narrows, one of the big hurdles in R2AK – it’s a tidal gate where the current flows up to 16 knots and without an engine it must be timed very carefully. They nailed it!
  • They saw humpbacks in the Strait of Georgia and dolphins swam with them in Johnstone Strait.
  • Also in Johnstone Strait, Nadia made two of their most amusing vlogs: this one about how they pee onboard, and this one that makes us giggle every time we see it.
  • Tuesday night they rounded Cape Caution, an aptly named spot that’s fully exposed to the open ocean & one of the more daunting sections of the course. Enzo’s update the next day said the boat hit 12 knots and was surfing down waves “like a beast” and that everything in the boat was sodden.
  • Last night they passed through Bella Bella, the one required checkpoint in the race. It was the last ‘civilized’ place to stop before Ketchikan, and the team sailed straight through without taking a break. They are clearly in race mode.
At the time of this writing they are moving up the inside of Aristazabal island, about 210 nautical miles from Ketchikan, in what looks to be a fierce contest for 9th place with team Wraith to Alaska, which you can read about here: https://r2ak.com/2022-teams-full-race/team-wraith-2ak-2/. If those guys can see the tracker they are surely freaking out that a group of high school kids in a much older, slower boat are catching up to them!
Still 200 miles to go, and a total of 15 boats have now dropped out so there’s absolutely no guarantee of a finish – but Rite of Passage appear to be doing well. Parents are flying to Ketchikan on Friday, if all goes well the team may arrive sometime Sat or Sun.
If you want to follow more:
– Live race tracker here: https://r2ak2022.maprogress.com/# 
– The R2AK daily updates are hilariously written and informative
– Here’s the team’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/teamriteofpassage/ 
Please also watch out for teams Goldfinch, Loustic Supersonic, and Rho Your Boat – these 3 have traveled closely with Rite of Passage for most of the race – they’re a little quartet of teams in boats from the 1970s punching way above their weights.
Thanks so much everyone for the amazing support & well wishes!
Michael

Quick update: just before midnight Ketchikan time (yes, they sailed to a different time zone), about two miles from the finish and after a many-hours-long sailing and pedaling duel with team Wraith 2AK, team Rite of Passage slid into the lead and then crossed the finish line, taking 9th place overall.

Despite the late hour about 30 people were on the dock hooting and hollering to welcome them in. Wraith 2AK came in shortly afterwards, clearly gassed after trying to out-pedal the teenagers, but with smiles and mutual respect all around.

What an exciting few days. Here’s a shot of the team after ringing the bell:
sailing race to alaska from seattle

And another from the seaplane I was lucky enough to get invited out on today:

sailing boat race from seattle to alaska
Thanks again everyone for the support and well wishes!
Michael