I can't resist a bit of Internet armchair race analysis here. (WARNING - this from a sailing dude, who likes to day race and sleep in a comfy bed, who last spent overnight on a sailboat decades ago and the closest I've come to the Seattle/Vancouver Island cruising grounds is Portland, Oregon.)
With an inaugural race, over such an unusual course of such length, the initial possibilities of what constitutes a successful race program remain wide open. After the race, the picture is much clearer. Now with the results in, we can safely say; to win the R2AK with the current course, pick a very fast trimaran around the 8 - 9 meter (25 - 30-foot) range, and then crew it with three experienced offshore racers who know the drill, and can keep the accelerator down 24/7. That is what Team Elsie Piddock, in a F-25 carbon trimaran did, and they surprised themselves and everybody else by finishing in just over 5 days. Multihulls over 6 meters (20 feet) long took 5 of the first 6 positions.
What type of experience wins the R2AK? Team Elsie Piddock goes over their sailing resume before the race.
In the sailing monohulls, a disparate set of keelboats finished on top of that division. A Hobie 33 finished 3rd after holding 2nd for most of the race but lost out to a trimaran that made up about 160 km. or 100 miles in about a day and half of open water racing. A day racing keelboat, the Etchells 22, with a crew of three, finished tenth. It would be interesting to see how much the Etchells 22 sailed versus rowed as they seemed to spend much of their time making their way up to Alaska in the narrow cuts and not out in open water. The upwind ability of an Etchells 22 is extremely good but there are none, nada, creature comforts.
And in another demonstration of the turtle winning out over the hare (in this case the purpose built Barefoot 5.8), a pocket cruiser-keeler, the Montgomery 17 of Team Excellent Adventure finished 12th. When conditions were bad, they hunkered down, when they were good they kept going and when they had a chance to recharge, they took it (looks like they spent two days in Prince Rupert drying out, getting a shower, enjoying the restaurants.). All in all, a very creditable performance.
What happened to the team I was pulling for; the Tad Roberts design Barefoot 5.8? Two things:
- Three crew on a 5.8 meter dinghy added too much weight in stores.
- The lack of stability of an open dinghy meant they couldn't safely keep the pedal down 24/7 so they pulled up at night. This negated the third crew, who was added so they could keep racing at night.
If the R2AK as an event keeps going, and you want finish it in a monohull sailboat under 6 meters (20 feet) the best path seems to be a keel type pocket cruiser with a crew of two. Of course, the type of sailor who already owns a pocket cruiser isn't one to think a 1207 km. race in colder and colder water would be any fun at all.
A tip-of-the-hat to the design and sailing team of Team Barefoot Wooden Boats. They didn't finish where they thought they would, but they did finish. The Barefoot 5.8 was an innovative and bold design. It was wood and can be home-built. For shorter distance races this would be a very quick monohull.
Designer Tad Roberts kindly sent along some photos of the build of the Barefoot 5.8 and some early pre-race debugging..
The Tad Roberts Barefoot 5.8 sail plan, Set on a tall mast, the sail area was quite big for this size dinghy. The initial plan was to reef early and often but I'm betting, if they had a choice, they would have changed to a shorter rig in the middle of this race. A very pretty sheer on this design.
The Barefoot 5.8 was built around the very substantial double-bottom grid. The sides would be added on later. Wood was 6mm. plywood.
Sides on. Deck on. You can see the kness that were used to support the top-side panels.
Open transom and double rudders a'la the French offshore machines. The Barefoot 5.8 used hi-tech leeboards to keep the double bottom open for rowing and sleeping.
The Barefoot 5.8 looks to be a very potent Everglades Challenge design. In that race, open dinghies of this size (I'm thinking of the Core Sound 17 and 20) can finish in just over two days. That seems about the right amount of time to drive an open dinghy 24/7 without completely boinking.
Here is a short video of Team Coastal Express in their Mirror 16. They slogged their way through the toughest parts, the Seymour Narrows and the Johnstone Straits, before deciding they couldn't afford the time to finish the race out. This video looks cold, very cold.
Mention must be made of the tenacity and persistence of the human-powered competitors that finished:
- 6th place - Team Soggy Beavers -Six paddlers in an OC-6 canoe (with ama)
- 11th place - Roger Mann - first solo competitor in a stock Hobie Adventure kayak/trimaran with Mirage Drive. Either you think this guy is Superman (he kept pushing 20 hours out of 24 for 13 days) or crazy-dumb (he almost lost his life twice, a pitchpole and another time he ended washed out but tethered to his kayak).
- 13th place - Team Boatyard Boys - two guys in a 17 foot Swampscott Dory, on which was added a small cuddy cabin. The original intention was to sail a fair bit but the windward performance was so bad they ended up rowing for most of the race
- 14th place - Mike Higgins in a 17 foot kayak. Yep, he paddled all the way.
Reader Mike Scott, who lives on the left coast, and was much closer to the action, added this comment which I've dragged over to the main post.
"I've been avidly following the race after being at the pre-race party, and getting up at 4am the next day to watch the start - which was set to the fanfare of the Russian National Anthem - quite bizarre, very stirring music, and typical Jake Beattie. I, too, loved the Barefoot Wooden Boat entry, and am hoping they might bring it up for the Wooden Boat Festival in September. Will be very interesting to see who and what enters next year - if it flies again. Much speculation on the 'perfect' boat, but as all depends on available wind and this year certainly favoured the speedsters, with a knarly Northwesterly blowing for much of the race......."