When was the last time you were challenged?

hallie kopaldAll

Trevor, Chris, and Tripp Burd of Team FreeBurd, winners of the 2017 Race to Alaska, share their thoughts about the Race.

The Race to Alaska distills sailing to its purest form. Get from point A to point B however you see fit. Oh, but don’t use an engine, don’t plan for help along the way, and don’t miss the 5am start to cross the Juan de Fuca to Victoria.

When it comes down to it, each team is racing against itself. With the only certainty being uncertainty, can teams keep pushing, solve problems, and ultimately make it to Alaska in one piece? Whether you’ve only splashed around in the kiddie pool or are a fully professional athlete, you are forced to contend with the same weather conditions, ground rules, and whatever personal hardships you choose to undertake. The race isn’t about who has the fanciest boat or can spend the most money on pro crews and ounce saving technologies – these might help you win, but who cares? The Race to Alaska makes a real adventure accessible to anyone with passion.

In our case, the R2AK was the great equalizer. The 2017 race was a clear example of the different motivations and backgrounds that attract entrants to the R2AK. Team Big Broderna was so inspired by the concept of the R2AK, they learned to sail specifically to compete. As commercial fishermen, they knew the ocean well, but boat tuning and performance was a new game. On Team FreeBurd, we all had raced sailboats since we were kids. The three of us have sailed professionally at every level. With multiple offshore races completed and a bevy of championship wins to our names, we were confident in our racing ability, yet still rookies to the unknown challenges awaiting us on the Inside Passage. Despite our differences, we were evenly matched. You can look at the six minutes that separated first and second place as the culmination of thousands of carefully calculated decisions over 700 miles, or as a single twist of fate that could have just as easily gone the other way.

This event brings together the spirit of some of the legendary oddball races in sailing and adds its own brand of crazy. It evokes the bygone Worrell 1000, a sprint from Florida to Virginia sailed in beach cats. It takes elements of the Archipelago Raid in Sweden, which emphasized navigation and dealing with current and rocks. There are myriad coastal races and offshore challenges that one can take on, but what separates the R2AK from any other race is the sheer variety of boats and people who line up to take a shot at the $10,000. Nowhere else will you find 30-foot racing trimarans lined up with kayaks, one-off custom catamarans, and paddleboards.

In truth, the most inspiring performances take place in the middle and back of the pack, where competitors put on heroic efforts of self reliance and suffer the same treacherous waters for weeks longer than the boats at the front. As such, this race isn’t defined by who wins or loses. Regardless of the vessel choice, the days underway, or the finishing order, all racers share the bond of having pushed their personal limits while navigating through some of the most mean and magnificent waters on the planet. The most rewarding experiences don’t come without challenge and at the end of the day the Race to Alaska reminds us that life is about the adventure. When was the last time you felt truly challenged?