R2AK VIII: Race Preview

In 2015, the Race to Alaska was unleashed like a rubber duck in a tsunami. It grew from a wild dare to a testament of human grit and marine mastery, as intrepid souls raced from Port Townsend to Ketchikan with no motor, no support, and just enough sense to bring a poncho. 

Welcome to R2AK VIII. On June 9, as dawn cracks its first grim smile over Port Townsend, 43 teams will hurl themselves into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, churning like an unbalanced laundromat-washing machine. Far from a pleasure cruise; this is a brute-force ballet across some of the most treacherous waters on earth. 

Rules? Barely there. Engines? Forget ‘em. Outside support? Don’t count on it. It’s you, your craft, and the cold rush of the sea. We nail $10,000 to a tree in Ketchikan and dare anybody with a boat and basic common sense to come and get it.

And how about you, those who stand back and observe? Your job is to watch, to cheer them on, and to indulge in some vicarious masochism. To enrich that experience with some background of the wild ones taking on the challenge, here are a few team particulars:

  • Team Boogie Barge: Blake Hansen (five-time SEVENTY48 racer and one-time WA360 racer) is finally putting his cata-cycle contraption to the test in R2AK. Best bad idea of 2024?
  • Team Guardian Sailing: Hailing from Eugene, OR—this team’s aim is to use sailing as a platform to provide transformative and healing experiences for military veterans.
  • Team Sail Like A Mother: These three mom-sailors pay homage to the legacy of SLAG, and make their bid north in one of four Santa Cruz 27s. 
  • Team Malolo: Back with the custom trimaran DRAGON, Duncan and his crew can’t get enough of beating themselves up. Will this be the year DRAGON tastes the fish and chips of Ketchikan, or gets another log in its teeth?
  • Team SUP N IRISH: High time for another SUP artist to crush this course. Peter Allen tried it last year, and made it to Klemtu before his shoulder went supernova. Welcome back, Peter.
  • Team Victory Oar Duff: The Royal Canadian Navy has officially granted this team permission to turn R2AK into an official training exercise. We’re interested to know what sort of credentials this thing will get you.

And one bitter rivalry:

  • The Fastest Dougherty: You may remember Team Rite of Passage in 2022. Well, the Dougherty siblings from that team are all grown up (17 and 19), and have parted ways. This year, each will R2AK on separate teams: Francesca Dougherty as captain of Team Rock the Boat, and Enzo Dougherty as crew aboard Team Roscoe Pickle Train. The first to Ketchikan will win the fan-generated “Fastest Dougherty” prize, complete with an etched crystal paperweight. If neither makes it? We’re going to see how big a hammer it takes to crush crystal.

Want to get yourself completely up to speed on this year’s teams? Fill your sound holes up with The R2AK Podcast, and listen in as a rotating cast of mid-level interviewers including Race Creator Jake and Race Boss Emeritus Daniel quiz, question, and lightly berate each and every team. And in news from low-orbit, our satellite tracking system is getting a glow up and you’re going to want to download the YB Races app on Apple or Android for all your late-night in-bed tracking needs.

The R2AK Ruckus kicks off on June 8, from 3 PM to 8 PM—think of it as the last hurrah before the pain begins. Here, at the edge of the continent, we’ll send off these (choose your favorite) foolhardy, brave, reckless, inspiring, quixotic, audacious, unhinged souls with a bash as rugged as they are. Included in the mix: your favorite finger foods served from the back of a truck, malty beverages (and some not so malty), free R2AK tattoos, and perhaps a chance to view the steak knives.

Race start: 5 AM, June 9, at the Northwest Maritime Center. And in the spirit of the crowds that sent off the Titanic, you’re invited.