Our local heroine, again!
For the second year in a row, Russell and I have had our minds blown as summer boating gets going. The Seventy/48 human-powered race from Tacoma to Port Townsend was a mere curiosity to us when first announced in 2017. We thought, ‘cool!”; another great brainchild of Jake Beatty and Daniel Evans of the NW Maritime Center. Then Inger walked into our shop.
Inger Rankins of NW Sails & Canvas, is a highly skilled canvas master, creating boat covers and dodgers that are jaw-droppingly beautiful and perfect. She is a fit Norwegian-born 50 something that can be seen walking or biking all over Port Townsend with her trusty and adorable, canine side-kick, Rupert. Inger is also a close friend. I admire and appreciate her on so many levels. So when she asked Russell if she could borrow our PT 11 nesting dinghy to row seventy miles up Puget Sound in a race?... First, Russell tried to talk her out of it. Then, he took her seriously, albeit in bewilderment.
During the 2018 inaugural Seventy/48, Russell nearly pulled his hair out in elated disbelief when he realized that Inger was going to finish in the top 30% of over 115 long and sleek human powered craft, in an 11 ft, fixed seat, rowboat; our rowboat. She became and instant local heroine and for us, the star of the year.
As the 2019 race approached, she was struggling to find training time. She rowed to and from the sail loft where she was working with husband and sailmaker, Sean Rankins. The distance from Point Hudson to the NW School of Wooden Boat Building is roughly 6 nautical miles each way and weather and current present many challenges. But injury can also stump training efforts and she hurt her back at work. Inger doggedly kept training when she could, and was smart to get well rested before the start date.
A lot had been learned from 2018’s race and Russell sent her off with a lighter boat, lighter oars and encouragement to quit the race at any time. Everyone knew she had already done the impossible, a feat difficult to beat and potentially dangerous to try. Stubborn as she is, she tried, and she succeeded! In conditions rougher than in 2018, Team Valhalla beat her own 2018 time by a solid 45 minutes. She finished 30th out of 108 boats. A collection of friends, fans, and Norwegian flags greeted her at 2:13 in the afternoon as she rang her finishing bell. The first aid crew went down a list of questions about how she was feeling and checked her off as fit to row to the beach. I listened with wonder and searched her face for signs of trouble. She was instead, grinning after over 19 hours of rowing non-stop.
Yep, heroic in every way.
Will she do it again in 2020? There is a good chance she will. She told me how she had felt mentally fresher this year and that her body liked rowing. She said she cannot describe how happy she feels when she is out there on the water. I think to myself, ‘amazing’. She’d been told that the Platte Canyon High School Team PCHS had watched her 2018 post race videos for tips and inspiration, and being able to inspire others, has been a real bonus for her.
Russell and I want to publicly thank Inger for her tenacity and the pure joy she has given us by doing this race in our boat. It is a priceless gift we will always treasure. Some photos follow.
Videos from 2018: An interview with Inger Rankins Overboard practice before the 2018 race. And look for a really well done video about Inger on the Off Center Harbor website.