June 13, 2019

Serjei With R2ak BergeeThere is a chance of drowning, being run down by a freighter, or eaten by a grizzly bear. There are squalls, killer whales, tidal currents that run upwards of 20 miles an hour, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

The annual Race to Alaska {R2ak} began the first leg in Port Townsend, Washington on June 3rd. Strong Northwest winds and the choppy seas in the straits Juan de Fuca made for a challenging crossing to Victoria, British Columbia. The second leg of the race got underway on June 6th, from Victoria with the finishing line being at Ketchikan Alaska.

Serjei and Grahamleft to right JT Serjei and Graham

Over the next three issues of CYOnBoard we will be giving you some of the personal stories and comments of the competitors in this unique and challenging sailboat race. The first story is from Graham Heath the owner and skipper of Pitoraq. Here is what Graham had to say about the lead up to the start of the race in Port Townsend:

Pitoraq in Port TownsendPitoraq in Port Townsend before the start of the 2019 R2ak

“The race to the start is almost over and the nervous anticipation is building.

“Team Pitoraq left Victoria 0600 Wednesday 29 May for Port Townsend, a quick 40 nautical mile trip across Juan de Fuca Strait into Washington State.

“We arrived a Point Hudson Marina at 1330 in time to meet our customs clearance appointment and check in.

“Not much R2AK activity in the marina to start, but our first mission was to remove our little diesel engine and crate it for transport to Seattle and onward shipment by barge to Ketchikan. Team Pitoraq did the extraction without outside assistance, and set her in her pre-made crate and buttoned her up.

“We said a tearful goodbye to our little friend when we loaded her the pickup truck belonging JT's Port Townsend friend Ron who helped us with transport to Seattle.

Next up on Friday was to pass our R2AK safety inspection a get our official race number 08 is us!

On Friday the race boats were starting to show up some being hauled and launched by the travel lift at Sea Marine at the head of the marina. The other end of the marina is starting to sound like pit row as last minute fixing and assembling of rigging and pedal drives reached a crescendo. We hid out at the kayak dock and did some small repairs to our #1 genoa.

Saturday we had a little time and went to the Northwest Maritime Center and watched some of the finishes of the 70 - 48, (https://seventy48.com/) a human powered boat race 70 miles from Tacoma to Port Townsend, starting at 7pm on Friday, the lead boats and boards paddled through the night and were arriving Saturday morning.

Serjei and JTSaturday evening, we had a wonderful time at the racers Lamb Roast BBQ in the backyard of Jake from the Northwest Maritime Center. R2AK brings together a mix of adventurers that you are not going to see anywhere else. Paddle boarders, rowers, traditional or high-tech sailors, big budget and no budget teams all in the same game!

Now it is Sunday and we have completed the official sign in, have our spot tracker, burgee and T-shirts, waiting for the skipper's meeting at 3pm.

And then there is the RUCKUS street party, bands and beer garden to make sure we are in good shape for the 0500 start tomorrow! Follow the fleet on the tracker at http://tracker.r2ak.com/

It will be live for the start Monday at 0500.”

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R2AK 2019 starts June 3rd from Port Townsend so, Team Pioraq decided that it would be a good practice run for them to go from their home base in Esqimalt to Thetis Island without using their engine.

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