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WBFW's Zeroing In On The Prize Money, Glory and Hot Showers!

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  • WBFW's Zeroing In On The Prize Money, Glory and Hot Showers!

    June 13, 2023

    Race to Alaska just closed out its fifth day since Victoria and here in the command bunker, we’re getting ready. We’re digging out the boxes of decorations, counting out the $10,000 prize money, finding the right piece of firewood, and sharpening some steak knives. Ketchikan is getting ready too. The newspaper is taking their typewriters in for an oil change. TV and radio hosts are already polishing their lenses and “Red Leather, Yellow Leather-ing” to get limbered up for the big moment. The finish line banner was hung out the Fish House with care—people are ready. You can feel it. Ketchikan is anxiously drumming its fingers.

    With good reason. On what is likely the eve of first-place arrival, it’s been a bit of a nail-biter. For the last two days, the race has been less about working the classic boat vs boat tactics of most boat vs boat races, and more about dodging weather, logs, and how to keep the gremlins of destruction at bay. So far five teams have left the race because of damage. So far.

    Let’s review:

    Team Zen Again Dog: Rogue wave smashed his kayak onto his arm while he slept
    Team Mojo: Rudder tried to split the boat
    Team Tres Equis: Rudder, bulkhead, and main beam delamination
    Team Hornblower: Rudder and daggerboard damage
    Team Trimorons: Hole in hull
    While they haven’t left the race and are currently in Bella Bella assessing options for repair, Team Dacron and Denim’s rudder peeled off its outer layer revealing a soft chewy center inside. (Check their instagram feed here. We didn’t know rudders could do that.) They’re not worried, it’s a rental.

    Most times there are lessons that can be divined from this kind of data. Tilt your head and squint at all the things that went wrong, math it all out on the chalkboard then Beautiful Mind the common themes to know if only they wore life jackets, or heeded the weather, or not had such a crappy boat in the first place, it would all be fine. This year it’s less clear. This year the data seems to be telling us the following:

    Don’t have a new boat, an old boat, a boat made by professionals, or a boat you made yourself. Those kinds of boats tend to break.
    Don’t have too little experience, but if you are going to have rockstar-level crew, they should be on a monohull.
    Don’t let your boat roll over your arm.
    Don’t hit anything.
    The truth has never been less useful.

    As we type, Team We Brake for Whales is short tacking up Principe Channel, the middle route between the windswept wilds of Hecate Strait and slab-sided confines of “the ditch” (Grenville Channel). Anyone will tell you that while it might be a chance to get out of a little bit of the wind and big seas of Hecate (which right now is looking like it’s gusting to 60!), there are way more logs. The last time we saw them they were sailing in the sun; eating cookies, having singalongs, and mowing down miles. The only damage they had sustained was their port side logo sticker was missing half of an “R.” As of now, they are “Blake for Whales,” so don’t say they haven’t been through the wringer.

    All of that joy is a solid 50+ miles ahead of Team Dogsmile Adventures, who are a solid 50+ miles ahead of Team Budgie Smugglers. Without divine or gremlin intervention, the money, knives, and first team with the honor of winning nothing seem predestined—but even that makes it far from a given. The weather forecast over the next 24 hours/135 miles starts off hunker down and horrible. Regardless of route, weather near the leaders will rage all morning before dialing back and eventually easing to, dare we say, light and pedaling-—and all on the nose.

    Overlay that pi?ata of awful on top of Dixon Entrance and nothing is a given. On the Whales’ likely course, Dixon Entrance is a 60-mile no man’s land crossing into Alaska, with little protection from the often violent forces of the North Pacific that funnel in and collide with the mountains and outbound waters of the Skeena River, creating some of the most turbulent waters on the west coast. In a truth that seems like it was created in a game of “What’s worse than that?,” once you leave Prince Rupert, the next place you can take refuge ashore is an honest-to-god grizzly bear sanctuary. Choose your poison.

    Given the course and likely boat speed, gremlin and log attack notwithstanding, it looks like Ketchikan will need to wait a day or so before they can watch the Whales ring the bell of victory. Stay tuned to the tracker, which thanks to a guy named Shane in New Zealand has been working quite well for the past few days. Good job, Shane!

    Will the Whales smash romp across Dixon this morning to chisel a few hours off of their eventual time, or will they withdraw and spend a few of their bank of miles between them and Team Dogsmile to eat some cookies and wait for the wind to ease before making the jump? Given their ranked and stated priorities of “safety, fun, and speed,” our guess is that there are baked goods in their future. Ketchikan will have to drum their fingers for a few more hours.

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