In preparation for competing in the Sound Rower’s “Sausage Pull” race tomorrow, Matt, Tim, and Scott assembled Rouleur yesterday at Sail Sandpoint and tested out the alignment of the new beams Matt constructed. This was the first time since the 2016 Race to Alaska that the boat had been floated, and this race will be an interesting opportunity to get some speed data with the boat lightly loaded.
As the scant official prizes (10k$ for 1st; steak knives for 2nd) of the full Race to Alaska (R2AK) have now been claimed, it’s time to focus on the R2AK side bets: $1k for the 1st boat under 20′ to reach Ketchikan; and a Fisheries Supply gift certificate and loaner Seagull outboard for the 1st (most southerly, but still persisting) boat to get tapped out by the sweep boat.
Two of these teams did not qualify for the full race. Both would likely have dramatically altered this R2AK.
Truck-trailer problems prevented solo racer Roger Mann of Team Discovery from making it to Port Townsend with his custom trimaran. Roger was first to finish solo in the 2015 R2AK, having persevered over the 1200 km course in a Hobie Islander. This year he initially planned to paddle a folboat north without food (he planned to forage in the intertidal). Later he prepared a trimaran he’d built for other adventure races, like the Everglades Challenge.
Matt Johnson of Team Take Me to the Volcano managed to get the only boat purpose-built for the 2016 R2AK finished in Seattle, pedal-sailed to Seattle, and started in the qualifier. Unfortunately, a fatigued aluminum bracket caused one of his amas to separate from its crossbeam shortly after he’d run into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. When he managed to pedal up wind and current round Point Wilson, Neptune dashed his hopes of continuing with a temporary lashing when both amas were ripped off by steep waves and a crossbeam was broken by the surf. Undeterred, Matt returned to Seattle to get his rowboat, drove to Port McNeill and embarked on a row back to Seattle — in part to learn more about the race course for his future bids to win!
Of the remaining 14 teams that started the full R2AK from Victoria, three have withdrawn (as of July 1). Karl Kruger of Team Heart of Gold human-powered his SUP sans sail not only across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to complete the qualifier, but then as far north as False Narrows in the first couple days of the full race — keeping up towards the front of the fleet. Sadly, his SUP — more heavily loaded than in his previous experiences — caused him to paddle asymmetrically, resulting enough knee and hip pain that he was forced to retire. John Manning and his crew in Team Why Not made it into the central Gulf Islands in their 1960 Cal 20 before retiring. Mark Dussel of Team Gold Rush stopped after entering Haro Strait having decided his Trika 540 wasn’t up to the long haul north.
That leaves 11 team still in the running for the $1,000 prize. As of noon on July 1, Team Angus Rowboats was in the lead and exiting Johnstone Strait having benefited from a rare southeasterly breeze. At one point the tracker showed him making at least 6.0 knots. In 2nd is 2-man team Vantucky, about mid-Johnstone Strait. And in 3rd is Team Sea Runners, rounding Chatham Point after solo racer Thomas Nielsen blew through Seymour Narrows at 7.8 knots on the full ebb tide. The rest of the teams are not far behind and many are poised to transit checkpoint one within the next tidal cycle. Here’s a video I took of Colin approaching Seymour Narrows after dropping Matt at Port McNeill to row back through the fleet to Seattle —
Of the 5 solo teams, Colin and Thomas are in 1st and 2nd, Mathieu and Dan have been swapping between 3rd and 4th, while Tim is not far behind in 5th. Here’s a screen recording of the R2AK tracker replaying their progress in the full race:
And here’s the situation as of 2:00 on Sat 7/2/16 —
Colin’s at Peel Island near Port Hardy. Thomas is at Helmcken Island. Dan is at Turn Island. Mathieu is at Chatham Point. And Tim is positioned to run checkpoint #1 just north of Campbell River.
The Race to Alaska (R2AK) is an unusual 1200 km “adventure” in which any type of boat — from stand-up paddle board to 70′ foiling trimaran this year! — aspires to be the first to reach Ketchikan, Alaska, under wind- or human-power. The rules are very simple: no motors aboard; no support other than what’s available to everyone; and no adding or changing crew. The full race starts in Victoria, B.C. a few days after a shorter race from Port Townsend, Washington, to Victoria which serves as a qualifier for the full race.
Below is a quick “guide” to key web sites and extra information about the R2AK 2016. (It’s also available as a Google document and PDF for easy editing and printing…)
2016 Qualifier: starts on Thursday 6/23 at 6 a.m. in Port Townsend, WA. Must reach Victoria Harbor by noon on Friday 6/24.
2016 Full race: starts on Sunday 6/26 at noon in Victoria, B.C. Must transit Seymour Narrows and Bella Bella en route to Ketchikan, AK.
An interesting aspect of helping Matt build his Race to Alaska boat is learning from him, the boat designer Rick Willoughby, and other contributors how important aero- and hydrodynamics are to creating an efficient boat. When you can only provide ~250 watts of propulsion power (or 500 in Matt’s case), rather than the normal 3600 watts you get from a 5 hp outboard, you need to minimize drag in order to attain admirable boat speeds.
Matt’s boat is version 16 of a pedal boat designed by Rick. This V16 R2AK is modified for the Race to Alaska in many ways, but one key one is the canting daggerboards. These foils are designed to be elevated above the waterline so that Matt can pedal without any water drag from them, and then lowered during sailing to to provide lateral resistance and lift that helps keep the boat from heeling.
When lowered to the maximum angle of about 55 degrees below horizontal, the leeward daggerboard will help with upwind performance. On a reach it could be raised to provide more lift, while on a run it can again be pulled up clear of the water.
Here are some photos of the dagger boards — both during construction and initial sea trials.
We ended up deciding to shorten the struts from about 63 cm to 58.5 cm LOA. This allows the struts to come up above the water line (and hopefully many of the smaller waves) and be lowered down to near 55 degrees below horizontal.
Here are the struts after being shortened experimentally to about 60 and 58.3 cm LOA…
It was clear during testing in the lake that the bare aluminum struts were creating a LOT of drag. Rick explained that fairing them (with a symmetrical foil shape) would reduce the drag by about a factor of 20. Sailing with them immersed was equivalent to pulling a second Rouleur hull behind us!
Here are a few more photos of the fairing of a second set of struts (made with slightly thicker walled aluminum tubing, too, I think). This set was faired with cedar, though we may fair the original tube with foam insulation to have a backup (lighter duty) second pair.
The astute reader will notice that I drilled the holes 90 degrees off in the ends of the struts! This was remedied by re-squeezing the ends (I did this in the vice already without cracking any epoxy, thankfully) and re-drilling (much easier to line up the holes when you’ve got the faired foil shape behind the bit in the drill press!). Any strength lost from the initial errant holes I hope to regain by injecting silica-epoxy plugs 2-3 cm into the tube ends.
I’m excited to see what these faired struts do for Rouleur’s speed. So far she’s not quite attained the sailing speeds that Rick expects from his modeling…
With two weeks to go before the start of the 2016 Race to Alaska (R2AK), I thought I’d share my favorite meal from my 14 day experience in the 2015 Race: “Can-do couscous.” This <10-minute meal delivers a powerful combination of carbohydrates, fats, and flavor that will warm your core and keep you energized (9.2 MJ, or 2,200 Calories). Mixed with 250 ml water it’s reminiscent of a puttanesca pasta; with 500 ml it’s a Mediterranean minestrone.
5 ml Better than Boullion (vegetarian flavor) — 10 Cal
Mix all ingredients except couscous
Add mixture to couscous in a Ziploc bag
Store in cool place (we used our bilge) until really hungry
Boil 500 ml freshwater (took ~1.5 minutes in our Jetboil)
Squeeze, pour, spoon mixture from bag to 1-liter eating container
Add 250-500 ml of boiled water to eating container
Stir well (to ensure boullion dissolves) and cover for 5 minutes
Consume with a can-do attitude (it’s a big, filling meal for 1; a hearty snack for two)
I ate this 3 or 4 times in 14 days of dinners and never got tired of it. Since Thomas and I based all our meals on a 500 ml Jetboil volume, this was the one way I could think of to get the satisfaction of one of my favorite foods — pasta — with neither the risk of boiling water on a rolling for 10-15 minutes nor the waste of precious pasta water. The olives and tomatoes break up the otherwise monolithic texture of the couscous, the savory-salty boullion base is delicious, and the Parmesan holds everything together and provides the novelty of occasional melted cheese strings. This version is vegetarian, but a carnivore could add anchovies…
We were aiming for 5,000-7,000 Calories per day, so this meal was a solid third of my daily calories. It sometimes seemed like a daunting amount, but only once did I save ~1/4 of it for a snack later. (It’s totally fine, cold, too. Pasta salad!) Overall, this dinner weighs in at about 500 grams and delivers 9.2 megajoules of Race fuel. That works out to about 19.0 kJ/g which is well above carbohydrates (17 kJ/g) due to the fats in the olive oil and Parmesan cheese. (Olive oil has a specific energy of 37 kJ/g!)
For reference, milk chocolate has a specific energy of 22.85 kJ/g… So, I recommend the Ritter’s milk chocolate with hazelnuts for your R2AK dessert!
Anyone else care to share their favorite recipe? Add it in the comments.
While most of the 2015 Race to Alaska (R2AK) was rather breezy, the very beginning of stage 2 (from Victoria to Ketchikan) offers an opportunity to compare the speeds of the diverse boat types in the fleet. Not only is sailing not allowed in the inner harbor of Victoria, but there was virtually no wind during the first couple hours of the Race. As the ebb tide weakened and the bulk of the fleet made the big left turn from the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Haro Strait, a light southerly filled in and the sailboat race began (see plot of wind speed at Kelp Reefs below).
This near-calm period affords an opportunity to compare the speeds of the many different types of human-powered propulsion that were utilized by the 2015 fleet. Boats with a wide range of designs and displacements used oars while others tried 1- or 2-bladed paddles. A hand full of technological innovators used pedal-powered propellers or adaptations of the Hobie Mirage drive.
While a more quantitative assessment is warranted (maybe with GPS Action Replay?), with the excitement of the 2016 upon us, I tried a simpler approach. Assume that everyone started at about the same time (high noon on Sunday June 7, 2015), that the whole fleet cleared Point Gonzales before any meaningful amount of wind set in, and that everyone experienced about the same set from the ebb. Here’s the current situation at Race Rocks for that day:
2015-06-07 Sun 5:14 AM PDT Sunrise
2015-06-07 Sun 5:38 AM PDT 0.6 knots Max Flood
2015-06-07 Sun 6:47 AM PDT -0.0 knots Slack, Ebb Begins
2015-06-07 Sun 11:12 AM PDT -5.3 knots Max Ebb
2015-06-07 Sun 3:05 PM PDT 0.0 knots Slack, Flood Begins
2015-06-07 Sun 6:09 PM PDT 5.3 knots Max Flood
2015-06-07 Sun 9:11 PM PDT Sunset
With those assumptions in place (and with the caveat that any ebb current would reduce the apparent speed of the R2AK boats as measured by their SPOT transceivers), I next measured the point-to-point distance from the Empress marina in the Inner Harbor of Victoria to Point Gonzales (just NE of Trial Islands). It’s ~10.5 km. I then used the R2AK tracker re-play function to estimate the time that each boat passed Point Gonzales. (This is a little tricky due to the 15 minute location interval, but if we assume constant speed during those 15 minutes we can approximate the time at which a boat passed the Point to within a minute or two.)
The range of speeds (5.0-2.0 knots, or 9.3-3.7 kph) is not that big — though it feels substantial when you’re getting passed by someone on the course, or trying to catch up to a boat that’s “just ahead!” I certainly recall being appalled at how fast the Soggy Beavers (44′ OC-6, mean speed 5.0 knots) overtook our 17′ catamaran (pedal+paddle power, mean speed 3.7 knots) in the first few minutes of the race (see below)! [There’s no data for 2 boats that had SPOT trackers that weren’t working during the start.]
The fastest boat (Team Soggy Beavers) was a long, narrow, lightly-loaded hull propelled by Canadians using the most tried-and-true technology on the Pacific Northwest coast: the canoe paddle. The next three fastest boats used pedal drives, assisted in some cases by a paddle: Hexagram 59 was relentless in their use of a supplementary SUP paddle (always on the port side!); Sea Runners occasionally took vigorous strokes with a canoe paddle. Turn Point Design had a carbon fiber cat driven by the largest prop among the pedal-powered boats.
One interesting pattern is that the 7 top speeds were obtained with less traditional methods (not rowing). After them, came the three fastest boats that were rowed: the Boatyard Boys (small boat, strong rowers; coincidentally almost matched by Team Mau with an athwartship pedal system), Elsie Piddock (the winners of the windy 2015 R2AK), and MOB Mentality. This pattern hints that there are still speed gains to be made by both rowers and technological innovators. This year Colin Angus and Mathieu Bonnier will bring a LOT of rowing experience to the race.
And Matt Johnson will bring some serious pedal power. His interest in pedal-powered boats is partly fueled by an interest in breaking the World record for 24-hour distance in a human powered boat. This Google spreadsheet of human-powered boat speed records and measurements shows how high the bar has been set over the years — primarily by pedal boats and kayakers. The speeds maintained over 24-hours have been creeping up over the decades. Kayaks have gone from 8.04 kph in 1988 to 10.15 kph in 2013, while pedal-powered boats have increased dramatically from 3.76 kph in 2000 to 10.22 in 2008.
Overall the 2015 R2AK boat speeds over those first 10.5 km bracket the speeds maintained over long distances by rowers and kayakers (3-5 kph; e.g. Colin and Julie rowing across the Atlantic averaged 3.9 kph). But the upper R2AK speeds aren’t far from the World record paces of pedal-boater Greg Kolodziejzyk (10.5 kph) or Bellingham-based kayaker Brandon Nelson (10.22 kph). The top sprinting speeds achieved historically indicate an upper edge of what current technology may soon deliver over a long course like the R2AK (ignoring factors that limit human endurance): 17.6 kph for Gordie Nash in a pedal boat; 20.55 kph (11 knots!) for Olympic kayak men’s K4 sprint.
Who do you think will beat the “Point Gonzales record” (of 5 knots) this year?
For the competition to be “fair” from year to year, the current situation should be about the same. It looks like Jake did a good job of leveling the playing field:
2016-06-26 Sun 5:14 AM PDT Sunrise
2016-06-26 Sun 5:26 AM PDT 0.0 knots Slack, Flood Begins
2016-06-26 Sun 6:47 AM PDT 0.9 knots Max Flood
2016-06-26 Sun 8:24 AM PDT -0.0 knots Slack, Ebb Begins
2016-06-26 Sun 12:18 PM PDT -4.2 knots Max Ebb
2016-06-26 Sun 3:57 PM PDT 0.0 knots Slack, Flood Begins
2016-06-26 Sun 6:55 PM PDT 4.5 knots Max Flood
2016-06-26 Sun 9:19 PM PDT Sunset
The slack will come about an hour later this year, but the max ebb is about a knot less than last year. May the best technology and most powerful racer win!
The Race to Alaska (R2AK) is an un-supported challenge in which reliable communication and navigation is important, but energy supplies are often limited. Many of the smaller boats want to be light to make sailing or human propulsion faster, so taking tons of batteries isn’t an option. Solar charging systems can be limited by inclement weather. And getting wet is pretty much guaranteed on a small (<20′) boat.
Electrical system for cruising 21′ cat and Team Puffin (R2AK 2015, ~9.0 kg):
Here’s the system that Team Puffin used in the 2015 R2AK. This set-up was derived from systems that were used aboard the same Wharram Tiki 21 sailboat (“Milagra”) during summertime cruises over the last 5 years.
Pelican case (45 cm long x 35 cm deep x 18 cm thick; with wooden dividers/brackets glued in using Shoe Goo)