$1k prize for the 1st boat less than 20-feet to Race to Alaska

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.

The $1k side bet sponsor, Small Craft Advisor Magazine, published a great blog post summarizing the 16 competing boats, including photos.  Here is a list of all the teams with boats registered for the full race that are less than or equal to 20-feet length over all — from shortest (16′) to longest (20′):

Team First Last M/F Boat type Ye


# Reg team? 2016 Reg order Reg crew? # crew Qualifier start? Qualifier finish? Qualifier place Qualifier time (hours) Full race start? Full race finish? Place Time (days) Last point north Boat model Hull built for an R2AK? Cabin or shelter onboard? Boat cost Boat length LOA (m) Boat length (ft)
Shadowfax Dan Isaacson M Catamaran 2016 97 Y 44 y 1 y y 16 y Hobie 16 4.9 16.0
Can’t Anchor Us Tim Penhallow M Monohull 2016 92 Y 39 y 1 y y 52 y Swampscott dory w/cabin/etc mods n y $500 4.9 16.0
Coastal Express Heather Drugge F Monohull 2016 67 Y 14 y 2 y y 36 y Mirror dinghy n n? 4.9 16.0
Nordica Ryan Wegwick M Monohull 2016 93 Y 40 y 2 y y 43 y Nordica 16 n y 4.9 16.0
Bunny Whaler Nate Rooks M Monohull 2016 55 Y 2 y 2 y y 38 y Boston Whaler Harpoon w/rowing station n n? 5.2 17.0
Vantucky Justin Bay M Trimaran 2016 64 Y 11 y 2 y y 31 y Windrider (WR17) n n? $10,000 5.3 17.0
Excellent Adventure Bill Gifford M Monohull 2016 76 Y 23 y 2 y y 39 y Montgomery 17 n y 5.2 17.0
Sea Runner Thomas Nielsen M Monohull 2016 73 Y 20 y 1 y y 24 y Seascape 18 n n? 5.5 18.0
Gold Rush Mark Dussel M Trimaran 2016 75 Y 22 y 1 y y 50 y n Haro Strait Custom tri w/rotate-in amas – Trika 540 y 5.5 18.0
Angus Rowboats Colin Angus M Monohull 2016 56 Y 3 y 1 y y 17 y Row-cruiser modified w/ketch rig y y 5.7 18.8
Heart of Gold Karl Kruger M SUP 2016 74 Y 21 y 1 y y 41 y n False Narrows 19′ stand up paddle board ? n 5.8 19.0
Liteboat Mathieu Bonnier M Monohull 2016 61 Y 8 y 1 y y 40 y Liteboat rowboat modified to sail y n 6.0 19.6
Squamish Chuck Gardner M Monohull 2016 83 Y 30 y 3 y y 37 y Young 6M n y 6.0 19.7
Discovery Roger Mann M Trimaran 2016 54 Y 1 y 1 n DNS qualifier Frankentri “7 of 9” n y? 6.1 20.0
Take me to the Volcano Matt Johnson M Monohull 2016 63 Y 10 y 1 y n NDF qualifier Custom stabilized monohull w/pedal drive y n 6.1 20.0
Why Not John Manning M Monohull 2016 72 Y 19 y 2 y y 35 y 1960 Cal 20 n y 6.1 20.0

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 —

tracker.r2ak.com screengrab 2:00 7/1.  Matt is near the yellow star...
tracker.r2ak.com screengrab 2:00 7/1. Matt is near the yellow star…

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.

In the race of <20′ boats for the $1k from ‪#‎smallcraftadvisormagazine‬
1st: Team Angus Rowboats (Colin)
2nd: Team Vantucky holed up in Telegraph Cove
3rd: Team Sea Runners (Thomas)
4th/5th: Teams Bunny Whaler and Excellent Adventure on south shore of West Thurlow Island
6th-8th: Teams Squamish and Nordica rafted up with Shadowfax (Dan)
9th: Team Liteboat (Mathieu)
10th: Team Can’t Anchor Us (Tim)
11th: Coastal Express off Saratoga Beach south of Campbell River

Spectator’s guide to the 2016 Race to Alaska

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.

Key web pages:

See handy links at the top of this web site, too!

Official Race web site —


Facebook page —


Track the progress of your favorite teams during the race (location updates every 15 minutes) —



Don’t miss Jake’s hilarious descriptions of race teams!


And his accounts of many of the 2015 teams and adventures:


Compare the promo videos and watch the Larry Ellison throwdown —



Other web sites of interest:

Small Craft Advisor forum on the R2AK



Google spreadsheet with team data from 2015-2016 that underlies tables in the talk


Scott’s San Juan Sailing Club presentation about R2AK 2015 (web-based slide presentation) —


— with links to more slide shows, videos, web sites, and 2016 racers.


Human-powered boat speeds at the start of the 2015 Race to Alaska

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).

Not until 2 p.m., a couple hours into the 2015 R2AK, did the southerly begin to flow up Haro Strait.

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.

The fleet under human power along the shoreline south of Victoria.
The fleet under human power along the shoreline south of Victoria.  (Photo from r2ak.com)

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.)

Here are the results (also available within this Google spreadsheet of Inter-annual R2AK Statistics) —

Team Human power (primary) Victoria – Gonzales Pt. (10.5 km) speed (kts) Victoria – Gonzales Pt. (10.5 km) speed (kph)
Broderna oars n/a  n/a
Barefoot Wooden Boats oars n/a  n/a
Soggy Beavers paddle 5.00 9.26
Hexagram 59 pedal 4.00 7.41
Sea Runners pedal 3.70 6.85
Turn Point Design pedal 3.66 6.77
Discovery mirage 3.58 6.63
Mike’s Kayak paddle (2 blade) 3.40 6.30
Pure & Wild pedal 3.27 6.06
Boatyard Boys oars 3.15 5.83
Mau pedal 3.09 5.73
John paddle (1 blade) 3.04 5.63
Elsie Piddock oars 2.93 5.43
Puffin pedal 2.91 5.38
MOB Mentality oars 2.88 5.34
Kohara pedal 2.86 5.29
Un-cruise mirage 2.79 5.16
Blackfish oars 2.77 5.12
Grin oars 2.77 5.12
Por Favor oars 2.77 5.12
Golden Oldies oars 2.68 4.96
Coastal Express oars 2.52 4.67
Excellent Adventure oars 2.50 4.63
Real Thing pedal 2.38 4.41
Free Burd oars 2.36 4.38
Y Triamoto oars 2.36 4.38
Super Friends oars 2.36 4.38
Seawolf pedal 2.00 3.71

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.]

Six-minutes after the bell, the Soggy Beavers pass Team Sea Runners on route to set the Point Gonzales speed record:
Six-minutes after the bell, the Soggy Beavers pass Team Sea Runners on route to set the Point Gonzales speed record: 9.26 kph.  They passed Point Gonzales just one hour and 8 minutes into the 2015 Race to Alaska.

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!