With 2 boats carrying our Pacific Swift emblem, you can guess Russell has been helping get them ready for the race. We have been very excited about this race mainly due to the spirit of it, in the tradition of the early OSTAR, where practically anybody with a boat and perseverance could enter and possibly the least likely could win.
Some boats have been designed and built from scratch and been launched a little too close to the race date to be ideal. But, they made it to the starting line and the shakedown leg to Victoria has been a great learning experience. For entrant details you can see the Race to Alaska website. As of writing this blog the racers have left Victoria on the second leg of the race. The spot trackers allow you to follow their progress in real time.
So what was the start like? Numerous great videos have been posted online but that morning, with so many boats on the water at daybreak and the sudden cheer that erupted from shore at the starting horn, is hard to capture on film.
We were out on the water, not as an entrant, but signed up as a "chase-boat" / support for the arrival side. We sheeted in the sails along with everyone else at the start. We were fast; making the crossing in just over 3 hours averaging 9+ knots in windy rough conditions. About midway our tack pennant gave way and the genoa raced up the stay. We 'parked' long enough to retie it and continue. Russell sent me down below for a specific line and I realized too late what a bad idea that was. The boat was jumping around faster than my eyes could keep up and and by the time I was on deck again, I was on my knees heaving. Yuk... I hate heaving but I did feel better afterwards! Some time after that I realized I was cold. I had not dressed warm enough under my foul weather gear. I was doomed to go below again and all I could manage was to lay down on the floor and cover myself with a sleeping bag and hugging a bucket. So I have been thoroughly initiated for our upcoming sailing trip.
We were still leading the fleet until right near the harbor entrance, where Team Golden Oldies slid by to receive their well deserved victory. They made a perfect crossing in conditions, (strong wind, upwind) well suited to both our boats!
In Victoria we quickly cleared customs and headed back out to cheer on arrivals and get some pictures. It was a good test for our boat, Jzerro, which Russell considers a cruising boat and not a racer. Had we tried to create a way to human power it, we might have entered this leg of the race, but we were swamped with work leading up to it and Russell spent a lot of time helping two of the teams prepare. We just wanted to be there and are grateful to Jake Beatty of the NW Maritime Center for our 'back stage' passes and a fascinating event.
While in Victoria, we enjoyed a lot of conversation and brainstorming on improvements and routes north with some of the crews. The rough and windy conditions were nature's way of sussing out weaknesses and filtering out those less well prepared. I know I will pack some warmer clothes than I had.
"on, on!" racers! We are thinking about you! AEB 😉