The Seventy 48 race this year was a first for PT Watercraft in that there were two PT 11's in this 70 mile event. Our local hero Inger Rankins rowed her 4th race in the PT 11 and it is interesting how every year can be so different. We will start with Inger, whose tracker never communicated to the satellite and many of her fans thought she had dropped out. Think again. While her family and friends in Norway, France, California, Virginia, New Mexico, and Port Townsend were all frantically wondering where she was, she was happily keeping her rhythm over the waves, admiring the moon over Mount Ranier, and chatting with other racers. We contacted the race boss and were told that there were technical issues with many trackers. At that point almost 60 trackers out of some 125, were not showing up on the map. I can only imagine their stress was about as bad as ours. You can read about the NWMC's tracker woes in this R2AK leg one post: https://r2ak.com/2023-daily-updates/stage-1-day-2-a-day-without-trackers/
We have faith in Inger. She had both a radio and a phone onboard that she could use if needing help and since the race committee did not contact her, she was blissfully unaware that there was a problem. When her phone rang several times however, her fingers were so stiff that she could not get to it in time to answer. She later saw that her husband and I had called. "why are they calling me?" she wondered, " Don't they know I am busy rowing?" she reasoned and did not call back. We know her enough to have guessed her thinking. 😉
As morning came, we decided we were going out to find her. We could see where team Tally Row was and that was the key to our hunt. Team Tally Row was solo skippered by Leo Sampson, also in the PT 11 nesting dinghy. We have been super happy to see him engage in this event, inspired by Inger and drawn by the challenge of the race, and we figured the two PT 11's would likely be together en-route.
We departed in our latest pod cat, 'Sipper', a sleep deprived Russell, myself, and friend and naval architect Jim Franken. We all forgot binoculars, a key tool when searching the semi open waters for an 11ft dinghy. Not to be defeated we checked in with all the racers we saw in the south end of Port Townsend Bay and through 'The Cut' bound for Point No Point where we could see Leo's tracker progressing North.
We found him easily as you can when a tracker is working. Leo looked happy, relaxed even, after 15 hours rowing; the hard part between midnight and 2 am having been overcome. He told us that Inger was ahead of him by at least an hour. He knew this because a SUP boarder had told him he had talked to her before he went ashore for a rest and then had caught up with Leo. Well, that meant, we had totally missed her! "Tell me when you find her!" shouted Leo, as we pulled away.
It was around this time that our motor starting missing and floundering. Uh oh... Can we even make it back ourselves? I message Diana Tally an update. "Don't worry, Inger can tow you home!" says she. Well, we'd have to find her first. 😉
We buzzed and coughed and nursed the motor back towards Port Townsend, this time closer to the coast. Again under the bridge connecting the peninsula to Indian Island and still no Inger. 'Go towards the Mill,' says I. 'But what if she is on the other side?' says he. 'No way,' says I. And then we see the Race Boss boat zoom towards the Mill and way off in the distance, come to a wake-making halt. 'They found her!' says he and we make haste in that direction. Why had we not brought binoculars?! The phone rings. Sean, Inger's husband calls to say he can see her from the bluff at the end of Sheridan street. ' She's approaching the Mill,' He had his binoculars... !
The morning sun reflecting off the bright white transom of the PT 11, and the glossy flashes of the wet carbon oars were the first real recognition of our tiny target. We sure are happy to see you! says we. and happy to see you too, say she. We give her an update on the situation and make sure she is alright and begin our list of calls and messages to all awaiting news. Sean does the same and the international grapevine is buzzing. Our lost sheep has been found!
We leave Inger to do what she does best just as the wind is beginning to increase against her. We know she will make it before it really pipes up but our hearts go out to Leo and all of the other racers who will hit that wind head on. It turned out to be really tough for those boats and very few, including Leo, persevered to the finish line but it set them all back by hours.
Inger arrived after 18 hours and 40 minutes of rowing, besting her previous record by almost an hour. Leo pulled in just before dark, stiff but smiling bravely 7 hours later. Two amazing achievements for these two non-athletes who trusted the PT 11 enough to carry them home over 70 miles of tricky water. We are deeply humbled and grateful to both Inger Rankins and Leo Sampson for that trust and the spirit to validate it.
Below are some photos of racers from the morning of June 3rd. Teams can best be identified by comparing with the team descriptions on the Seventy48 website.
Post Script for a giggle...
Due to the fact that Inger's tracker did not communicate until the very end of the race, the map tracking showed Team Valhalla as "first overall"!! .... seriously, wouldn't that be amazing? Especially the data saying she traveled the ~70 miles from Tacoma in 1 minute and 27 seconds!
I suspect she wiggled her nose or twirled her ponytale and teleported...
"And Don't forget the beer!" ( the below video clip sound won't play.. The audio has Russell and Sean discussing if they have enough beer for when Inger reaches the finish.)