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Thread: 2019 R2AK: Let The Games Begin

  1. #11
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    2019 Day 3: Where the hell are they?

    This was going to be the day. Teams Pear Shaped Racing, Angry Beaver, and Givin’ the Horns running tight and fast, clearing the gates of Seymour, set up for Johnstone, the Queen Charlotte Sound, and then a sleigh ride forecast of 20+ southerlies in Hecate to and through Bella Bella. Southerlies in Hecate?!?! This would be a 1 in 5 rarity to have favorable wind in Hecate. This was going to be big: a downwind fight and maybe the fastest run through R2AK’s back nine that this race has ever seen. For us here in the R2AK command bunker and the R2AK nation worldwide, this roughly reached the turducken-like importance of the Super Bowl, stuffed inside of whatever the Volvo Ocean Race is called now, stuffed inside of that cockfight we definitely didn’t go to when we were in the Philippines.

    This was gonna be big.

    We cleared our schedules, cleaned the house, and fluffed the cushions. We got our game day outfit pressed, starched, and bedazzled, then invited friends and sponsors to get excited, and readied ourselves to be surprised and humbled when we accept their compliments of how great we were doing. Then we made the snacks so we could all enjoy uninterrupted tracker-filled coverage of the tightest and most exciting R2AK we’ve had since at least last year.

    …and then the racers turned north while everything else went south. The tracker map died sporadically, tracker units died forever, and there was never a time when we could see more than two of the lead teams. People stood in our living room and held their drinks awkwardly before slinking home as we whacked the monitor, rigged up some tinfoil, and jiggled the wires so that we could see something other than static.

    Snacks, dammit, we made snacks.

    Watching the tracker today was like that 5th grade sleepover when you spent all night staring at static because your friend swore it sometimes flashed a grainy Playboy channel. It looked like regular static, but you stayed for hours because he shouted a face-saving “Wait, is that a boob?!” Even the flicker of hope of a flicker of anything had you locked in for a few more hours. Same with us, same with this.

    Not as an excuse to stall for creating a work around, but think of what it must have been like in the Age of Sail. You’d wave goodbye to your guy, the ship casts off lines, and he was effing gone. For years. No tracker, no email, no phone, and the only letters you would get would be from the ones he handed to a random, non-piratey ship, who then handed it to another random non-piratey ship, and so on…and as long as the actual pirates never showed up you might get the letter before he returned two plus years later to reconnect with you and meet his awkwardly timed newborn. Back then your best strategy was to build some railings on the top of your house and walk around up there with a lantern and look for your ship.

    Luckily things have changed since then. No tracker? We have racers’ moms—R2AK’s minuteman stop-gap to technology’s never ending fails. And the moms are doing great. Search the feed for #r2akmom, and you’ll get a ton of tidbits of unfiltered and unedited reports from Melissa’s mom and scores of other tracker junkies who heard the call and are flooding the virtual call center. Our virtual phones are ringing off their virtual hooks. With all of their tech flash, engaging websites, and embedded journalists, the Volvo Ocean Race is fantastic, but do they have Melissa’s mom? Boom! Mic drop.

    Big thanks to the ready reserve of tracker junkies, the neighborhood watch of R2AK media. This one looks like it’s going to take a village.

    Ahem, the actual race you ask?

    We know as much as you as to where Team Pear Shaped is waking up and how fast they are going. If the rest of the pack is any indication, rather than the traditional approach up the inside of Calvert Island, they took advantage of the big southerly blowing through and headed into Hecate for their approach on Bella Bella. Team Angry Beaver looks to be doing the same and capitalize on their Shock 40’s ability to turn into a downwinding needle to make up some time. Lead Beave Matt Pistay let us know that the crew was in good spirits and were short tacking in Seymour and Discovery Channel with Pear Shaped in some great head to head sailing.

    Sometime around 2 am they got hit with a wind hammer microburst in Johnstone Strait that pounded them and Team Givin’ the Horns with a right-now and out-of-nowhere 40 knots that beat them up and “took two years off our sails.” This morning’s 8 knot downwinder towards the northern checkpoint seems to leave the Beaves as less than crippled, but given the slower roll of Team Givin’ the Horns, their damage might have been more severe. More info as we get it.

    The story we can tell today is the freight train rolling progress of First Federal’s Team Sail Like a Girl, who for the last 48 hours have been using teams as ladder rungs as they’ve climbed into a legit battle for third with Team Givin’ the Horns. These women are champions in more ways than one.

    There are of course dramas playing out farther back that character limits won’t allow us to cover, but it’s hard not to mention the 100% pure R2AK moment of a 116 year old, 15 ton gaffer neck and neck with an outrigger canoe at the turn into Johnstone Strait. In the history of forever, we’re pretty sure that those teams’ end-of-the-spectrum defining vessels have never been in the same race, let alone neck and neck, and here they are, clear of Seymour and duking it out. We’ve scrambled the air wing in the hopes of getting an image, but we’ve got a megawatt smile just imagining it.

    While for most of us the story of Day 3 was dominated by a sincere and lasting tracker rage, the teams keep melting the miles, and with the steady southerlies, winds predicted the half of the race from Bella Bella could be won on Monday. Time to get our lantern and get on the roof.

    UPDATE: As of 10 am Team Pear Shaped Racing’s tracker was reactivated and they are still ahead but within a couple miles of Team Angry Beaver. This is so damn exciting. Come on over if you want, we still have snacks.

    The Daily Fix

    24 Hour Fact Sheet


    3 boats bought on Craigslist sight unseen (Tri Baby Tri which is a monohull), Ripple, and Yankee Peddlers.
    6 times Angry Beaver restarted their SPOT before they hit the right button
    61 years since they blew the crap out of Ripple Rock in the middle of Seymour Narrows so boats would stop running into it
    0: Number of people of McGuffin Brothers (Team MBR) who wanted to say hello to during their live Facebook interview
    3:1 ratio: Length of Team Ziska’s bowsprit to number of sundried tomato and parmesan omelettes eaten for breakfast. (Beat that, Pear Shaped Racing)
    11: Number of lead trades between Teams Sail like a Girl and Educated Guess
    2 hours: Length of time the top three lead teams (Pear Shaped Racing, Givin’ the Horns, Angry Beaver) traded tacks in Seymour Narrows
    1 maybe 2: Number of McGuffin brothers who lied about sailing naked when we saw them
    23% of 2018 teams were past Seymour Narrows at this time: 2200 on Day 3
    55% of 2019 teams are past Seymour Narrows at this time: 2200 on Day 3
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  2. #12
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Hi friends and family. I’m currently racing in the @racetoalaska We broke our rudder in the Queen Charlotte Sound
    and are making our way under temporary repair to Bella Bella to further assess and find a solution that will allow us
    to see the race through. If anybody has a lead on a spare Corsair 31 rudder, please call me at 404-200-7026

    Will Suto
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  3. #13
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Angry Beaver Unleashes It's Fury

    image © sean trew/pacific frog

    The remoteness of the BC coast has always been key to this thing. A big part of why the R2AK needed to exist was to get more people into the self-supported adventure that can only happen when you’re outside of your comfort zone and in a place where no one will hear you scream.

    There’s a fleeting rarity and holiness to being beyond the reach of communication. Doubt us? Gurus are supposed to be in seclusions at the top of mountains—would you trust any clay tablet commandments that Moses got from on top the hard wall at the climbing gym? Being out of touch somehow makes the adventure more real. Everest used to be the unknown reality whose impenetrable secrets quickened the pulse and spurred the imagination. Now you can send a selfie from the summit. Sure, you can still die doing it, so still adventurous, but somehow less cool. Unknowing has magic in it.

    Whether you’re one of the two people buying the lemonade we are trying to make out of our continued inability to know where Team Pear Shaped Racing is, or you’re more like the rest of everyone who spent the day and way too much of the night alternately hitting refresh on the tracker and reaching for another quarter to put in the swear jar, Day 4 was a day of unknowing.

    Without a camera crew on scene, a reliable tracker, and no #R2AKmom for miles, the story of Day 4 has to be recreated crime-scene style from the various threads of whispers and rumours carried to our ears by our informants, expert witnesses, and that very confident, close, and drunk guy on the plane whose strong breath and opinions of the race he learned about mid-flight seem as closely held as they are credible. Not for nothin’, his idea for an R2AK hack: trained dolphins.

    With Team Pear Shaped Racing sending it downwind in a gale from when they were last seen through ‘Go dark thirty,’ it’s hard to know their speed or state of repair. The informal poll of the staff at Fisheries Supply who had to close the tracker to ring us up put 3 pm Monday as the over/under finish time for the winners. A multihull maestro with R2AK street cred puts it closer to 4. While we might not have eyes on reports, we do have our little birds who whisper us the goods.

    If we’ve claimed the mantle of R2AK’s redux of Varys, Master of Whisperers, Team Pear Shaped Racing is clearly Khaleesi, Breaker of Trackers, Sailor of Dragon, and on Day 4 we can only guess the Game of Thrones level destruction they unleashed as they tore up the north half of the coast. Ketchikan is coming.

    It was also a day of all out racing. From the back to the front the matches are forming and teams are sparring in close quarters and making strategic big moves to distance and outpace. In the presumptive fight for one and two, at midday Team Angry Beaver reported being within a mile of the Pear Shaped tri. A mile after some three hundred miles—.3%; a drop in the bucket, a rounding error, a lower-cased fart in a windstorm.

    In a strategic choice that set the internet on fire, the two skippers of First Federal’s Team Sail Like a Girl and Team Shut Up and Drive are working different strategies post Bella Bella. While they both have female skippers, Jeanne and the women who sail as the girls played to their strengths and their inshore designed Melges and no thank you’d the Hecate Strait gale in favor of the route up the more protected waters inside of Aristazabal Island. Natalie and her all-dude crew on Team Shut Up and Drive doubled down on their offshore pedigree/experience and the ocean racing nature of their Figaro 2 and jammed out into the teeth of it. Their crew’s collective resumes are impressive (seriously, check out their bio, we wrote it, so facts start near the end) but we can only imagine the right-now nausea and future night terrors that a pitch dark run in big winds and 9-foot seas is causing on the pro-cyclist half of their crew who were selected for their output as bike meat over any time at sea. Fatigue, fear, and confused seas has long been a favorite recipe for a boomerang dinner that will make newbies low with seasickness and put a strain on the rest to pick up the slack. Inside vs outside? Who knows, but as long as their trackers hold up (EVERYONE, KNOCK WOOD RIGHT NOW) it will be exciting to see how it all plays out.

    It was a day of damage. What we know is that Team Narwhal splayed open their headsail along the foot, and the last image we saw had them barrelling along with an ragged, open-air jib window that nature volunteered for them. (Easier to see logs?) They have other headsails, but each one that goes away reduces the options and optimal speed. Plus they’re expensive. As they say in jolly old Frenchie town: c’est damage.

    In a more definitive crunch in the night, Team Givin’ the Horns bowed out of their sparring match with Team Sail Like a Girl when they broke their rudder nearly in two on the approach to Bella Bella. They jury rigged the remnants to limp into one of the few marinas in almost nowhere Canada. The locals who met them on the dock were tracker junkies too, and already knew what was happening and were willing to help. Out of the running for line honors, but wanting to continue, they were faced with a choice: Fix it, source one and import?

    From the people on the dock to the scores of online fans, people from all over the US and Canada rallied in a surge of internet support; reaching out to them to offer help in whatever way made sense. A sailor in the lower 48 offered to build one overnight, others offered to rip the rudder off of their boat to send it to them. Pilots offered to fly it up for for free. In a moment of clarity, they looked at all of the totally in-rules help that lay at their feet, looked each other in the eyes, and decided that rather than finding the most expedient solution, they would live up to the spirit of R2AK’s high bar self-reliance and opted to build one themselves out of locally sourced materials.

    Since it wasn’t prearranged, it would have been completely legal in the eyes of the R2AK to have a prefabbed one air-dropped in, but they’ve drank the R2AK suck-it-up and git-er-done Kool-aid and wouldn’t have it any other way. They are headed to the local hardware store to get what plywood and epoxy they can find and build a locally sourced rudder themselves. Their goal is to finish with their honor and to make Friday’s racer party and KYC Burger Night potluck. Couldn’t be prouder if we were their #R2AKmom.

    Unless they make a left at Dixon entrance and wow us with their Mortissier streak, Day 4 was probably the last before we emerge from the unknown and have some sort of eyes on Team Pear Shaped Racing, and all of the conjecture will be replaced with their stories. Enjoy the unknown when it lasts, our bet is that today someone is taking a selfie at the Ketchikan summit.

    Is that 2018 Team Fashionably Late or an alien in the distance? Team Holopuni was grateful
    for a place to raft up after a long day getting them through Seymour Narrows.
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  4. #14
    Beaver will be fat and happy tonite!

  5. #15
    They are under 5 miles now

  6. #16
    $10,000 on a borrowed boat.

    Pistay has all the luck!

  7. #17
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Angry Beaver Rings The Bell

    Team Angry Beaver finished the 2019 Race 2 Alaska @ 14:56 today to claim the $10,000.00
    cash prize, a 12 pack of cold beer and the 1st to ring the bell honors.

    The team of Matt Pistay, Gavin Bracket, Brent Campbell, Alan Johnson, Mats Elf, Simon Miles sailed the Shock 40 canting
    keel boat, formerly known as Secret Squirrel and then Velvet Hammer. The boat had gone under years of improvements and
    adjustments under the most recent owners Zachary Anderson and Will Paxton, and while almost ready for prime time, the two found a deal too
    good to pass up in a race proven J-125, that just had fewer moving parts to break. The current Velvet Hammer won the 2019 CORW, and is
    awaiting the start of the 2019 Transpac.

    Meanwhile, the Shock 40 had been donated to the Richmond Yacht Club's Skiff Sailing Foundation

    The Skiff Sailing Foundation is a 501c3 publicly supported qualified amateur sports organization dedicated to the promotion and support of High Performance Sailing. Our organization aims to increase the popularity and accessibility of the sport by providing equipment and funding to those with national and international sailing goals. We specialize in transitioning sailors into fast boats and giving them the best chance for success in their endeavors.
    Many boats are donated to the foundation and are utilized for training purposes, and eventually sold with proceeds to keep the program alive. The skiff sailing foundation received a request from their PNW
    counterparts who have the skillset to make he run at ultimate capacity, and this race certainly testifies to that end. "We are both proud of her accomplishments today and that she is getting the love
    she deserves, and not just becoming another flowerpot"
    Zach and Will

    Finished by a large 100 mile lead over 2nd place boats Shut Up and Drive & Sail Like A Girl, last years winner,
    which are both battling for that coveted set of steak knives...
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  8. #18
    Did Ketchikan survive the onslaught?

  9. #19
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    A Beavers Tale: The Gnawing Details

    It was a five cruise ship day in Ketchikan, and the irony was not lost on those paying attention and all the R2AK fans and families who gathered in the Alaska Fish House that, as the nearest supply of dry and warm, has become the official finish line waiting room for the expectant recipients of a newborn winner of the R2AK. One dock over, the floating buffet tables were starting to gather their 3,000 plus passengers into their 1,000+ feet of climate controlled consumption. But in the Fish House and down on the docks the faithful were waiting, checking the tracker, and finding fellowship in not knowing what would happen and when. Despite the sameness of the cruise ship passengers that more than tipped the scale towards fudge and jewelry consumption over celebrating the coming triumph of an unknown victor, the change in Ketchikan was palpable. From the Ketchikan Yacht Club faithful, to the waitresses in nearby cafes, to the slightly annoyed customs officials, the R2AK’s uncertain finale was a disturbance in the force in and around Thomas Basin.

    There have been four winners crowned in this race’s short history, but there has never been a day like this since we started this damned thing. Yes, we’ve had winners, and yes, while we’d never admit it, we could have told you from the start the 2-5 teams that might take it, but there has never been a longer hang time of us sincerely answering, “We don’t know who’s going to win.” From the time Team Pear Shaped Racing’s tracker went dark-side-of-the-moon after clearing Bella Bella, until a sail was sighted 10 miles out and we scrambled a skiff ride to see who it was, no one—not even the teams at the front—knew how it would turn out.

    As King 5’s TV news crew filmed their approach from a skiff, Team Angry Beaver – Skiff Sailing Foundation broke open their last five beers when their “Who’s winning?” was answered with a jubilant “You are!” Whoops of well done followed as the two-boat flotilla whooped to their now known victory. For them and the rest of us, it was a shocker. Given the tracker issues and impaired visibility of the rain-obscured reality of the Alaskan summer, the Beavers didn’t know they had won the hard fought victory until their final approach. After 700 miles, and with a whoop and two syllables, they learned they were 2 miles of clear sailing from victorious. It was a stunner. A team of mostly young and ubiquitously solid sailors had sailed the race of their life, and when they hit the dock and rang the bell became the fastest team on a single hull to earn the R2AK crown. That the traditional shotgun had to fight through a couple misfires before blasting them into the rare air of R2AK champions mattered as little as the rain to them and the hundred or so who Grunden’ed up to be soggily dockside and cheer their triumph.

    Beers were had, questions from cameras and microphones gave way to the hearty ‘atta boys’ between crew and admirers. It was news: A young, fast, but not favored team had pulled ahead and held it to the end. After the media and NASCAR-style shaken-up beer showers, there was well earned and unabashed glory in the ‘How did we do it?’ questions and answers that echoed around Thomas Basin. 4 days 3 hours and 56 minutes—beat the record for monohulls by over 8 hours.

    Two and a half hours behind them was the body and soul, all-out but not quite enough effort of Team Pear Shaped Racing. Based on boat speed alone, from before the race started they were the ones to beat. A crew of elite sailors with R2AK experience who scoured the earth to find and field a Dragon, a Kiwi-built Cochrane foiling tri with speed on the brain and fragile on the lips. While Team Angry Beaver arrived in the Ketchikan rain with the smirk on a winner, Team Pear Shaped Racing hit the dock in Ketchikan with the gaunt, shivering, and weary gaze of humans who had given it their everything but came up short. Yes, they had won steak knives and added their names and spirit to the annals of R2AK, but the indelible almosts of the race since Victoria weighed heavy and rattled around just behind their eyes. They were as gracious in defeat as the Beavers were in victory, and both the teams offered the sincerest of congratulatory camaraderie. In the warm up session around the fire in the Fish House, both sides drew from the pool of disbelief with the other half of the same whole. The Beavers with the optional humility born of youth and victory; Pear Shaped’s appreciation for their spirit washing away the flinty taste of disappointment one wave at a time. If cold beers and a warm fire were first, the cold comfort of what-ifs came right on their heels.

    The obvious came in log form—Pear Shaped Racing hit four, not small and not slowly. The worst was on the last night and brought them from nine knots to instant full stop. “I thought we went aground. It instantly shook everything loose in the cabin.” More than the stowables, it made a boxer’s nose out of the bow of an ama and jarred loose what was left of their electronics, leaving them to fly their high twitch bird blind for the last 100 miles. The log was every bit of huge, spanning all three amas and lifting the boat high and dry before it chose to roll under. This was in Hecate Strait, luckily it wasn’t on their gust-fueled night run that pegged their boat speed record at 27 knots. With the crew below, it was all Duncan could do to white knuckle it—even while the waves broke over the windward ama and lifted the hinged seat he was sitting in from the force of the waves. That was bad, but what will haunt their minds is the choice on Day 1 to chase a windline that didn’t pan out. The 30 minutes it took them to recover was the 30 minutes they were late to Seymour Narrows and every one catching up for a restart. Who knows about the other million decisions that were the difference between steak knives and full throated glory, but at least by 9 pm, that one still stung a little.

    When their stories joined the finish line echoes of Shut Up and Drive, First Federal’s Sail Like a Girl, and Educated Guess who crossed into Ketchikan some three to seven hours later. The fellowship of the similarities was palpable. The Hecate gale was real. Seas topped 15+ feet. All the teams’ boat speeds topped their best evers even as it strained every stitch of their sails. Sail Like a Girl hit 17 knots on their Melges 32. Team Educated Guess’s 24 foot version: 15. Both of them surfed their boat the wrong kind of uncontrolled downwave sideways and broached so hard that their spreaders scraped the water. Team Sail Like a Girl broached at such a speed that it bent the spreader. The waters of Alaska was putting up a fight.

    For each of the teams, the finish line was the oddly definitive way of being that had become their wet and cold normal. Tying up the lines was their exhausted goodbye to the singular existence of the sea where there is nothing to do but sleep, and what you are already doing. They expressed pride in their accomplishments, and the humility that no matter what their ranking, they still weren’t doing it in a rowboat. Yes we broached/came in first/survived a log strike at school zone speeds, but those guys in the rowboat are what makes this race special.

    Before dawn five teams had rung the bell in Ketchikan, and Teams Trickster and Narwhal in the dim hours that followed. All with stories, all with life changing epiphanies of broad and subtle terms—all happening under the liquid layer of at least our share of Ketchikan’s 13 feet of annual rainfall. We’re all headed for a dryer for our clothes and a pillow for our heads before the next teams roll in. R2AK—out.

    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    So first is final and second came in shortly after. The monohull Team Angry Beaver – Sailing Skiff Foundation came roaring in at 14:56 Alaska Standard Time for an elapsed time of 4 days, 3 hours and 56 minutes. Team Pear Shaped Racing followed up crossing the line a short, but long feeling, 2 hour and 27 minutes later. It is the second year in a row that a monohull has taken line honors. Something almost everyone said was near impossible.

    Here’s the comparison:
    2015 – 5 days 1 hour 55 min – Elsie Piddock
    2016 – 3 days 20 hour 13 minutes – Mad Dog
    2017 – 4 days 3 hour 5 minutes – Freeburd
    2018 – 6 days 13 hour 17 minutes – First Federal’s Sail Like a Girl
    2019 – 4 days 3 hours 56 minutes – Angry Beaver – Sailing Skiff Foundation

    And while beers were passed around in Ketchikan a contender turned casualty, Team Givin’ the Horns, scrambled in Bella Bella to build a new rudder with found materials in hopes of making the racer party June 14th. And last year’s victors, First Federal’s Sail Like a Girl, battled and fell to another fantastic team, Shut Up and Drive. Okay, let’s get to the standings.

    In order of finish:
    Angry Beaver – Sailing Skiff Foundation
    Pear Shaped Racing
    Shut Up and Drive
    First Federal’s Sail Like a Girl
    Educated Guess

    And here’s the list of those who have stopped racing:

    We are still looking for the winner of 20’ and under, which for now, looks to be Yankee Peddlers on the slow approach to Bella Bella. 1st solo is also looking far away, but SoggyKru is crushing it. There are lots of people out there who are keeping their eyes on Team Three Legged Cat, the solo sailor from Bella Bella. Think about it. He will have to sail right past his home and find the determination to keep going. What would you do?

    What’s fun? Teams Razzle Dazzle and WIP (Watertight Instant Paradise) came together to form the first ever R2AK Gam Jam; boats randomly rafting up to drift and play music. May it forever be a tradition. Here’s a crappy video for proof.
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