Monday, July 25, 2016

Header Photo: R2AK - A Luddite Hero?

The previous header photo is from the 2015 R2AK - the 720 mile Race to Alaska - of Team Boatyard Boys finishing in Ketchikan, Alaska; two guys in a 16' Swampscott Dory that was so slow under sail they ended up rowing most of the 720 miles. It was obvious from last year's race that a crewed multihull was the ticket if you wanted to claim the $10,000 prize. So what craft did Tim Penhellow (I think he's the one on the left in this photo of the original Team Boatyard Boys) choose to compete in the 2016 R2AK? The same 16' Swampscott Dory, though this time he decided to do the race solo. Alone! Predictably he finished last, amassing the slowest time over the two R2AK's (of those who did the race twice). Some of Tim's quotes when he was drinking a beer after crossing the finish line:

When asked what it was like racing the R2AK solo:
"Like losing your virginity. You're glad you did it but embarrassed by your performance."

"I'm bored of being bored."

"Solo sailing is not for me." (Where he went on to relate some terrifying moments under sail when he needed an extra set of hands - but all he could do was hold his breath and wait for the outcome.)

Truth be told, the organizer of the R2AK originally envisioned this race as one for the Tim Penhellow's of the world, an ultra-marathon grit and grind up the western wild coast of Canada, where human-power is just as important as sail power. Unfortunately this narrative for the R2AK only plays out in the boats under 20' of length. Several millennia of history have pointed out the fastest way to eat up the miles in non-carbon water transport is a sailboat. Fast sailing beats a fast rowing boat every time -  and there is no better fast sailboat then the modern multihulls, who this year made the 720 mile R2AK a three day sprint (for the winners).

As a race for the prizes, the R2AK is now a long distance multihull race, the R2AK adding some navigational wrinkles and spectacular coastal scenery as compared to a slog in the ocean. The guys that do the R2AK with boats under 20 feet - 2016 Luddites, all of them.  They will finish weeks after the multihulls, but I tip my hat to all of them.

Congratulations to Tim Penhellow, to the other small boat adventurers in the R2AK, and particularly to the older duo, Heather Drugge and Dan Campbell, racing the only sailing dinghy, a Mirror 16, who managed an incredible 600 miles before pulling out.

Further proof of why racing a Swampscott Dory in the R2AK is like bringing a knife to a gun fight - video from day 6 of the 2016 R2AK.


doryman said...

I've dreamed of a solo trip to Alaska for many years, the lower Salish Sea being my home cruising grounds. It never happened, and now I'm a bit long in the tooth for such an achievement, but when the R2AK was conceived by friends of mine here at home, it rekindled that dream.
In just two years, however, that dream is quashed. Part of being in a race is sharing the challenge with other contestants. There is no camaraderie in finishing weeks apart.
I've had this conversation with other local sailors and the consensus seems to be the event will morph into two events. Or the "luddites" will drop off and it will be an event only for the young, professional crowd.

Tweezerman said...


Thanks for chiming in. Best to hear an expert opinion from someone that cruises the R2AK waters and knows some of the R2AK players rather than someone from the "other" coast who is neither a cruiser nor a adventure racer.