BY CHIP DAVIS
Four rowing shells were among the 33 boats entered in this year’s Race to Alaska, a 750-mile “Iditarod of the water” from Port Townsend, Wash., to Ketchikan, Alaska, for any non-motorized boat.
Although the race is split into two stages—a 40-mile “proving ground,” followed by 710 miles “to the bitter end”—and has a single waypoint, there is no official course. First prize is $10,000 cash. Second is a set of steak knives.
Most of the entries are sailboats about 30 feet long. A few are kayaks, and one is a paddleboard. Last year, 19 of the 41 teams accepted finished, and no solo racers completed the race, an R2AK first.
According to organizers, features include “a chance of drowning, being run down by a freighter, or eaten by a grizzly bear. There are squalls, killer whales, tidal currents that run upwards of 20 miles an hour, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.”
Siblings George and Stina Booth make up Team Solveig and are rowing a custom 18-foot, 11-inch boat that also can be sailed. The other three rowing entries are all singles.
Ken Deem plans to scull a 19-foot plywood stitch-and-glue-construction Lost Heron expedition scull. “In the design, I tried to maintain a responsive feeling at the catch while adding stability and storage.”
Dameon Colbry previously completed the 2019 R2AK in a double, “Team Backwards AF”, but will go it alone this year. “Exactly how much more difficult it will be with one less person, I don’t know. I think having a little bit of uncertainty about whether or not I will complete the task is necessary.”
Lillian Kuehl will attempt R2AK in a Chesapeake Light Craft Expedition Wherry under the name Team Lillian’s Vacation. She has completed several “Seventy48” events—70 human-powered miles in 48 hours, Tacoma to Port Townsend, Wash. It’s an event the crew at Port Townsend’s Northwest Maritime Center stages in addition to R2AK “to compress crazy stupid into 48 hours.”