Race to Alaska boaters resume journey to Ketchikan as second leg kicks off

Doug Smith, the captain and sole crew member of the Dark Star team from Talkeetna, Alaska, rows his 17-foot Pathfinder near the start of the second leg of the Race to Alaska on Thursday. (Photo by Zach Carver via Northwest Maritime Center)

Sailors, rowers and paddlers raced down the docks of Victoria, British Columbia this morning, cast off their moorings and embarked on the final 700-plus mile leg of the race to Alaska.

It was what organizers call a “Le Mans” start, with the 30 or so teams gathered above the docks waiting for race boss Daniel Evans to honk his horn.

But first, Evans offered a few words of encouragement to those foolish enough to attempt an autonomous, human-powered journey along the unforgiving Northwest Coast.

“You’re doing something that most people in the world couldn’t even understand. What you’re doing has never been done before – because each of us creates a unique story,” Evans said. “I hope we can tell you this story. I hope we can celebrate this as you step into uncharted territory. It’s the best part of our humanity – when we come together and celebrate each other and that we can run to Alaska.

The moment was shared on Race to Alaska’s social media.

Crowds cheered as runners rushed to their ships and out of Victoria Harbour. They only used paddles, oars, treadle wheels and gravel as shipping is prohibited in the harbour.

The Don’t Tell Mom team is made up of sisters Leigh and Clare Dorsey from Belfast, Maine. (Photo by Lynette Oostmeyer via Northwest Maritime Center)

This year, for the first time, select pre-approved, ocean-ready teams have the opportunity to take on Pacific winds and weather and head up the west coast of Vancouver Island instead of the usual Inside Passage. Eight boats have been approved for the outdoor course.

But when it came to a decision, only three turned to open water: the Kootenay Pedalwheelers, Elsewhere and stage one winners Pure and Wild. This could prove advantageous if sailors are able to capitalize on stronger and more stable winds on the outer coast. But that’s only if the wind cooperates.

With light winds in the hours after the start on Thursday afternoon, two rowboat teams took the lead. Let’s go maybe? and Don’t Tell Mom each clocked around 60 miles in the first seven hours of the race.

Only about 640 miles to Ketchikan.

You can follow the runners on a tracker on r2ak.com.

About Patricia Kilgore

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