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R2ak 2016

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  • #31
    Their safety is certainly on my mind too.. You can see them taking longer tacks and sailing more conservatively.

    Maybe I'm just concerned because my sailmaker (Ballard Sails) is onboard
    1987 Canadian Sailcraft 36 Merlin
    Edmonds, Washington
    Salish Sea


    • #32
      R2AK June 29 Update

      48° North Coverage of Race to Alaska is brought to you by Globalstar Satellite Phones

      Race to Alaska Update #2, June 29, 2016, 2:00pm

      Race to Alaska 2016 just passed the 72 hour mark since the running/rowing/pedaling start in Victoria. It’s hard to believe it’s only been three days. Time is flying for those of us who are armchair tracker junkies, but I have a feeling it may feel like a lot more than three days for the sailors on the course! In the last 24 hours, I’ve had two conversations with MAD Dog, one with Jungle Kitty, and one with the brothers on Team Bunny Whaler.

      If you haven’t checked the tracker in the last few hours, we’ve got a serious four-boat race for the steak knives developing. Of course, nothing is to be taken for granted. MAD Dog continues to smash the upwind miles away, passing the Bella Bella checkpoint yesterday evening. Their lead has diminished proportionately to everyone’s progress on the course, but is probably still equal in total mileage. But there’s a lot of big, cold water still ahead of them.

      When I talked to the MAD Dog guys yesterday afternoon, they were around Calvert Island and were still on cloud nine about how everything went down in Seymour Narrows. They timed the tide gate perfectly, and went through with a lifting breeze on the nose and about 4 knots of current with them. They were assured of their good timing because all of the cruising boats that had waited for the gate to open were just starting to motor through. Once through the Narrows, they described “pacing with two purse seining fishing boats, making VMG of around 12 knots through the passage. We were psyched about that!”

      As the water widened into the typically windy Johnstone Strait, the breeze indeed started to pick up. The forecasts they saw were calling for even more wind the next day, so they decided this was their best opportunity and pushed the boat and themselves really hard to make it through Johnstone as soon as possible. They sailed for most of the day in 25-30 knots with a double-reefed main. Colin said, “It’s like the Columbia Gorge, wind funneling through moutains and working against the current.” It was the first time they had their new main double-reefed, and they were impressed with the power and control it delivered. However, they told me, “The boat is so light [just 1,100 lbs], it just gets pushed around in the waves. We were still showing 6-10 knots of boat speed in the big breeze, but a puff would hit and pick up the windward hull while just shoving the leeward bow hard into the next wave. We got no sleep in Johnstone Strait.” Toward the end of Johnstone, around 10pm, the breeze backed off enough that they got back into their watch shifts and got a little rest.

      They called again around noon today when they had the boat slowed down for a bathroom break, trying not to splash the guy with his bare behind hanging off the leeward hull. Randy’s commented about sleep being hard to come by, saying, “We’ve been just about fully close-hauled the whole race, and upwind makes sleeping pretty brutal. Everyone has gotten a little sleep. But there’s no sleeping when we’re in narrow passages or if it’s windy – then it’s all hands.” They’re hanging in physically, but the fatigue is definitely showing up at the end of their watches. They have been on a schedule of 6 hours on, 3 hours off. They just switched to 4 hours on, 2 hours off now to try to make the ends of the on-watch a little easier.

      Despite the challenge, they are in good spirits. They’re currently in Hecate Strait, making good progress in 10-15 knots of northwesterly breeze. They loved the approach into Bella Bella, painting the picture of “a full-on archipelago with turquoise water and nothing man-made for miles and miles.” They picked their way through an island group while their tracker was off, and said it was some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip. But, as beautiful as that was, with a day of distance from the blustery gauntlet of Johnstone Strait, they still count their timing through Seymour Narrows and the big push to put Johnstone behind them as their biggest highlight. “We crushed that timing. It was epic and intense,” Randy told me. Plus, they thought it was amazingly cool to have a plane and a helicopter coming to film them!

      They said they were a bit frustrated this morning, because they had been hoping to make more miles in the moderate breeze they had. “It seemed like everywhere we went was a 40° header.” But they’re going well again, and have consistently been seeing 11-12 knots of upwind boat speed. They still have the jib up, but not deployed, in the 10-15 knots of breeze they have, because they roll it out in the light spots. There are puffs where they’d like to have a reef in, but they’re setting up to power through the light stuff for now. Despite that set-up, Randy said, “we’re definitely slower than full race mode right now. We’re not actively trimming the main.” Those speeds, and they’re not in race mode… this boat and crew is really something!

      As they look ahead to this evening, they’re hoping to see the breeze do as it is forecast, and shift more westerly. They’d love a reach or maybe even a run as they approach Ketchikan. It’ll let them sleep better and will be a little easier on the boat (though they said, “knock on wood, our only gear issues have been very, very minor.”). We’re certainly pulling for them, and are thoroughly, genuinely surprised and impressed by what they’ve done thus far in R2AK 2016.

      MAD Dog is but one team of 36 total still on the course. In second place, and just through the Bella Bella checkpoint, are our friends and correspondents on Team Jungle Kitty. They had an extremely challenging time around Seymour Narrows, which I could tell was still weighing on them a bit when we spoke in the late afternoon yesterday. When they called, they were in just over 20 knots of breeze and 4’ seas, which after the night they’d had, they described as “mellow.”

      They had to wait for a tide window at Seymour Narrows, and were in the company of a few commercial fishing boats while they tacked slowly around. They were able to sail against the late part of the flood. Just past the Narrows, the breeze quickly picked up into the 30s, and that’s when stuff got hairy. They broke their jib halyard, and for that recovery and the rest of the night, they were all hands on deck. Sailing with a reefed main and no headsail, their progress in the breeze and the 7’-8’ waves was slow and hard on boat and crew. They noted that the phosphorescence in waves that big was eerie. They could see Madrona closing from behind, too, which didn’t help the vibe on board.

      Jungle Kitty skipper, Ben Glass, told me the low moment came around 2am. Nobody had slept, and they just registered a gust of 42 knots. Dropping the main to the second reef meant bringing it all the way down in the full gale and then putting it back up. It was dark, and the traffic in those narrow passageways made any amount of time under bare poles a serious no-go. They saw at least four cruise ships and six tug-and-tows as well as many fishing boats in those tight quarters. Their options to stop are limited because they’re such a big boat and they draw more than 10’, so they can’t just beach the thing. And all the while, they have on their minds that this boat belongs to the National Skiff Foundation, so they have a different kind of responsibility to take good care of it. The discussion shifted to turning downwind, and Ben told me, “If we turned downwind, we probably weren’t going to turn back up.”

      Literally in the midst of this discussion, the breeze decreased into the 20s. The boat came under control and they were able to stop the ragging of the mainsail. They could continue on! As they sailed through the night, the breeze continued to decrease, and they even got a bit of a southeasterly and put the kite up for a while in Johnstone Strait.

      Morale on board Jungle Kitty had returned to its jovial levels and the rest of the day was relatively mellow. They were headed out into Queen Charlotte, and we lost the call just as Ben was mentioning something about seasickness medication, so I think they were getting into more ocean swell-type conditions. I’m eager to hear more from them this afternoon, especially to hear about their decision to go the inside route of Calvert, Hecate, and Hunter Islands, while Madrona and Broderna went outside.

      Last night, I got a call from the young Bainbridge Island brothers on Team Bunny Whaler. Different than MAD Dog and Jungle Kitty, these guys are racing to win something different than the race or money or steak knives. They have pride, fun, experience, and the thwarting of challenging goals on the line, and their progress to those ends is more than admirable. They’re the first to admit it. “We’re just having a great time,” they told me more than once in a 20 minute call.

      “It’s been super light, so we’ve been rowing a lot. But, it’s hard to complain when the weather is so nice,” said Cooper early in the call. They are former college rowers, so their muscles know this kind of work. But they said their longest training row was two hours, and they had rowed for over seven hours that day. The rowing is going pretty well in the flat water, though. They’re impressed that they “can make a good two knots rowing such a wide, heavy brick of shit.” When they’re rowing, they’ve discovered that they reduce drag if they put the person who is not rowing way in the bow of their 17’ Boston Whaler Harpoon sailboat. They rig the spinnaker sheets around the tiller and have the brother in the bow steer with those while the other rows.

      Bunny Whaler rowing their 17′ Boston Whaler Harpoon. Photo courtesy of the Northwest Maritime Center.

      As is often the case with those who are racing to finish Race to Alaska, the experience with the other racers and spectators has been the highlight of the trip. Cooper and Nate were blown away by the number of people from Nanaimo and Galiano who came out in small boats to say hello. Team Sistership sailed by and threw them a snack. And they described an awesome time pacing and racing in the afternoon and evening with Team Vantucky. As the sun set, the Rooks brothers told Vantucky where they were planning to pull in for the night, and the two boats had dinner together on the dock, hashing out and sharing the stories of the fun racing they’d done that day. “It just reminds you how cool it is,” they told me. No kidding!

      They’re definitely making progress up the course, and had their sights set on a night of sleep on Lasqueti Island when we spoke. It got very windy yesterday morning, and they had a few hours of 20 knots of breeze and big seas, they said 6’, and had a lot of water in their boat. Mostly, it has been light, and the currents are strong. “It’s 99.9% super fun,” said Cooper, leaving a partial percentage for the long hours of rowing and the currents that have never quite matched up with the tide charts. They said they’ve made lots of time to step back and realize, “We’re out in the middle of the strait of Georgia. Just look where we are. It’s so beautiful right now!”

      One other piece of news today, Team Bad Kitty has had to withdraw. Bob David, of Bad Kitty, wrote on Facebook, “It with a heavy heart that I’m reporting that Bad Kitty is withdrawing from the R2AK. I made the decision after consulting with the crew and assessing the needed repairs. We are in Port Hardy and heading south in the next couple of days. This is such an incredible race and I thank all of the organizers and volunteers that make it happen. Fair winds and Godspeed for all the remaining competitors! The kitty will be back!”

      Looking into the next 24 hours, we’re going to see a lot of things happen. I think there’s a good chance MAD Dog finishes in daylight tomorrow, maybe very early in the day. Jungle Kitty has Madrona, Broderna, and a suddenly-charging Mail Order Bride right on their heels around Bella Bella. This is about the part of the course where we saw MOB just lit up last year, eventually reeling in the valiant Hobie 33 near Ketchikan.

      Up and down the course, great people on a wide variety of cool boats will be having the time of their lives. You know we’ll be watching and loving every minute.

      Joe Cline is the Editor of 48° North.
      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


      • #33

        Alert: MadDog Is Barking At The Finish Line

        In the weeks before the R2AK’s 2016 model rolled off the showroom floor, our heads were filled with questions. How would it play out? Would the weather rage for a second year and break masts and sailors, or would human power triumph and evolve with such epic proportions that the Year of the Rowboat be added as the 13th year in the Chinese calendar? Would the trimaran fleet reign supreme, snagging both of the race’s top honors and force Ian Farrier to send us a card, flowers, and a minority position in his company as a way of saying thanks? What would happen?

        As the sun sets on the third day of R2AK it turns out that we were mostly wrong—ok, totally wrong. Nothing new, being wrong is a bit like comfort food around here, but given last year’s race of gales and this year’s drifter, it’s uncanny how much the two races are identical, at least if you squint and tilt your head. The multihull in front hit Bella Bella while a monohull was still south of Cape Caution’s big right turn, with more multihulls farther back but gaining all the while. New year, less wind, more boats, but same deal. Weird.

        Out in front Team MAD Dog Racing continues to erase the miles between themselves and Ketchikan in double digit speeds. Behind them two hulls on separate boats have split up around Calvert Island to play out different strategies, each are being pursued by their own trimaran—the Farrier vanguard of Mail Order Bride, and Big Broderna who seem to be closing with every minute. It’s uncanny how similar it all seems. Honestly, it’s kind of freaking us out.

        With the big red cat lapping up the miles and light winds and low seas in the forecast, their arrival in Ketchikan is likely only a day or two away. Wow. Their story of speed and sleepless tenacity will be incredible to hear, but while they grind out the last few hundred miles, we’ll take this moment to shift back past the back of the pack to the teams who are going home. Joining their ranks in the past 24 hours are Team Why Not, the paddle-boarding grit of Team Heart of Gold, and just this morning Team Bad Kitty has assessed that the damage to their rudder is too extensive to continue. These glorious failures run the spectrum of the R2AK profile: local guys looking to do something incredible, favorites for the win, and favorites in our hearts for being intrepid and hardcore. Hard to know what’s in their hearts as they join the ranks of the now 11 teams who have exited the race, but it probably feels a bit like failure. Even with the support of fans and family, it has to sting a little.

        In the age of self-esteem parenting where everyone gets a ribbon, failure is not something we talk about often. We turn shelves into shrines to heap on the symbols of our successes. We frame the certificates, we never wear our failures on our sleeves, never bring them up in job interviews, or when we’re trying to snag a date with that hottie who is way out of our league. Failure is something we avoid as often as we rebrand it to simultaneously soften the blow and dilute its meaning. Challenge, teachable moment, pivot point, beta version.

        Failure is a concept that holds that same strain of loaded discomfort as talking to someone about their terminal illness. It’s uncomfortable and smacks of taboo. Say it right now, “I failed.” Shrink inward a little bit don’t you? Your voice trails off and eyes glance away to avoid the gaze of even your computer screen. Even in this fiction failure, it’s as loaded as it is deeply engrained, despite the reality that the only way to never fail is to never try or to make your attempts so smug in their banality that they don’t matter. Pulling up aces with a loaded deck might gain you the chips on the table but isn’t winning. Not really.

        Here at R2AK Race Central we celebrate those who try and triumph; it’s no small thing to prepare and train and then struggle to the other end. With equal voice we try to celebrate the failures on the course because they are evidence of all out ambition we hoped this race would inspire. A hard fought failure might not be evidence that you had the best theory, but it is the only time when you look yourself in the eye and know that you gave it your all, left everything you had on the field. Failure of that sort of intrepid exhaustion is an effort worthy of celebration. We celebrate failure at the R2AK because other than $10,000 for one, and a fancy set of steak knives for another, the R2AK is really about the challenge—and for a challenge to be real failure, it has to be a possibility.

        While we don’t have a lot of the story on Bad Kitty or Heart of Gold’s attempt, the R2AK attracted a soul who was more in for the challenge than any chance at winning. “A paddle board? Really?” seemed to be the pro-forma response whenever someone learned about his bid. Those words were followed closely with some combination of “He’s nuts!” and/or “Aren’t you worried about him?” He might be and we were, but less so once we met him. Team Heart of Gold’s Karl Kruger wasn’t a guy with a board and a paddle and a delusional dream, he had planned and trained for a year—more than that, he had done the math. Lots of math. From calculating weight to knowing how far and how fast he could travel in every condition, to exactly how many calories he could subsist on and how he would get them. 3,000 a day, through dehydrated food pellets he would gnaw on. At 35 calories apiece and 20 minutes to chew through he could just make his goal. Karl’s theory of exacting simplicity (eat pellets, paddle) was working, and by day three his solo performance was ahead of even some trimarans. The flaw came from a board whose behavior changed with the increased load and exacerbated the vulnerability of his weaker side. When he called it off he was paddling four times more on his left side than he was on his right, and the ratio was getting worse. Time to catch the bus.

        Karl’s bid for the R2AK was a heroic one, and his bold but sincere humility inspired—from the internet masses to the crowd on a passing ferry who crowded the deck to cheer his name. Thanks for trying Karl, thanks for stepping into the ring, blowing our minds, and reminding us the richness that is possible when you stop simply avoiding the possibility of failure.

        Fail well, fail boldly, fail safe, grow.
        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

 Photo Gallery


        • #34
          I usually root for the underdog, but I really like those guys and how they raced!

          Congratulations Mad Dog!

          Leave the boat up north for Northern Century!
          1987 Canadian Sailcraft 36 Merlin
          Edmonds, Washington
          Salish Sea


          • #35
            An amazing accomplishment.

            Congratulations men, well earned!


            • #36
              An AC 45' or Prosail 40' next year to trim the record down to 3 days even?


              • #37
                A Chat With The Chief Mad Dog

                Just off the phone with a tired but cheerful Randy Miller, owner of the Marstrom 32' Mad Dog Racing

                Randy and crew Colin Dunphy and Ian Andrews just won the $10,000.00, R2AK, by completing the 710 nm leg from Victoria BC to Ketchikan Alaska in a stupidifying 3 Days 20 hours and 13 min!

                Asked if they had anything left in the tank, Randy said " We pretty much left it all all out there. We realized we had a chance to hang a 3 (days) on the course late yesterday, decided to pour it on instead of being conservative, as we had been in the top half of Johnson Strait". Randy was surprised by wife at the dock in Ketchikan this AM, after finishing just after 07:13 AM, and overjoyed to see in her arms, a bundle of fresh, dry clothes to change into. "4 days in a drysuit, things tend to get pretty ripe" He laughs...

                The crew pushed through, 24 hours a day, never ever contemplating stopping for rest or bodily functions. "Our goal was always to push through, regardless" Randy adds " It was pretty scary at times to use the facilities while riding a bucking bronco" and if you think that would be scary, think about sleeping in a bivy sack while under way " The Marstrom does not protect well, and at best we could get was 30 to 45 minutes of sleep, before having to tack, which means climbing out of the bivy, unleashing, then transferring to the opposite side, strapping down then climbing back in. And it's damn cold and scary. I slept with a knife in my hands just in case I needed to cut my way out in and emergency. The track is pretty narrow in most places, and at best a quick cat nap is all you would achieve"

                But it seemed to be enough, as they powered through, running a 6 hours on, 4 hours off rotation initially. "That didn't seem to last long and we switched to a 4 hours on, 2 off rotation, with one person driving and one person navigating, with plenty of switching off jobs to keep fresh.

                Randy was really happy with the Greg Nelsen built propulsion system, "We made just as good of time as the rowers with 2 people clicked in and pedaling, but it was tiring, so we used it only at the start and when things got super light and we needed to "motor sail" for lack of a better term, to the new wind line. With a single pedaler we were doing 3 knots, but next year, if we do this again, I will want additional gears so we could get more thrust"

                The majority of the race was light and on the nose, but the boys got super lucky at the Seymour Narrows, arriving at the perfect slack and sailed through with a bundle of motor sailors and cruisers with no drama, Randy indicated. The more challenging stretch was the Johnson Strait where they were confronted with a nasty adverse tide and 18 knots on the nose. "That stretch was very taxing and challenging, and we really had to play close attention to avoid stopping the boat or worse, capsizing.

                The meals were all cooked via a Jetboil camp stove which Randy says "Worked incredibly well, even in the breeze, we had hot water in 2 minutes, so never a long line at the cafeteria window"

                As far as company, the Mad Dog crew had bundles of cetaceans tagging along. We saw plenty of humpbacks, grey whales and even had a large pod of dolphins chasing salmon out of the water. And near the end, a grey whale appear directly in there course with just moments to avoid a collision.

                Along the way, they mad a few donations to Davey Jone's locker, including on of the click in mt biking shoes, a boot, a leatherman, a battery charger and a water bottle. "The Marstrom tends to lose things very quickly" Randy noted.

                Upon arriving in Ketchikan, the crew was treated to ice cold beer, "The best tasting beer I think I have ever tasted, followed by a free breakfast courtesy the local dock/eatery owner. " The folks up here are VERY generous and kindly" Randy added.

                The crew will be spending the next few days in Ketchikan tracking down their shipping container, then breaking down the boat and shipping back to the SF Bay Area. " Really looking forward to the Big Boat Series this year" Randy notes, "There will be 4 Marstrom's plus our boat, so there should be some great racing". A little back story on the boat which Randy bought in 2013. Initially just a go fast fun platform, he was hoping to see a west coast fleet form, but that has yet to materialize, but after the BBS, perhaps additional interest will happen. Randy participated in the east coast series a couple years ago, then really got hooked on the distance sailing. "There's just something special about the boat when you can let her stretch her legs"
                Last edited by Photoboy; 07-01-2016, 09:58 AM.
                " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

       Photo Gallery


                • #38
                  Great job guys! Looks like Ocelot gets the knife set!