The 2020 edition of the Race to Alaska (R2AK) will feature a major course change in addition to updated rules, organizers announced on Sept. 6.
The elimination of the mandatory waypoint at Seymour Narrows was revealed at R2AK’s Blazer Party, leaving competitors in 2020 with a choice between the currents and fickle winds of the traditional route up the Inside Passage, or the open Pacific Ocean on the west side of Vancouver Island.
R2AK High Command Jake Beattie and Daniel Evans shared the change with a boisterous crowd of over 250 racers, volunteers and die-hard fans at the race’s Blazer Party, the competition’s annual kick-off organized by the Northwest Maritime Center.
“We now have an open relationship with Seymour Narrows,” declared Beattie.
Evans was clear that safety is still paramount. Entrants considering the outside route will have to declare their intentions so that organizers can ensure they meet US Sailing’s requirements for a Category 1 offshore race. Human-powered entrants will not be allowed to take the western route. The Canadian Coast Guard will now require that all boats, regardless of route, carry a registered PLB or EPIRB.
The change came as a surprise for some. “My gut instinct was to always go offshore to find more wind so this helps me, (but) I didn’t see that coming,” four-time race veteran Katy Stewart said. Organizers awarded her R2AK’s first “Frequent Floater” punch card, granting her free registration. When asked about the 2020 running, she said, “Well it’s free, so now I have to.”
There was plenty of dockside discussion among R2AK veterans and fans the next morning. Jeanne Goussev, captain of 2018’s winning Team Sail Like A Girl, also expressed surprise but remained coy about her team’s strategy for 2020. Teammate Lisa Cole added, “We were awake in our hotel room until two this morning and … we were like ‘What about this, what about that?!’”
At the Blazer Party, Beattie and Evans also recognized 2019’s first-and second-place finishers, Team Angry Beaver and Team Pear Shaped Racing. Winners of the infamous Side Bets included Team Holopuni, who took the Washington State Parks Boat Program’s “Helmet of Shame” award for their rescue from a capsized Hawaiian outrigger canoe in Dixon Entrance. Team Yankee Peddlers took home first place among vessels of less than 20 feet, as well as the Dirtbag Award, given to the team with the least amount of money invested in the race. The crew of three raced a Santana 20 that they purchased through an online classified ad for $600.
The 2020 R2AK will be the sixth running of the race and will start in Port Townsend, Wash., on June 8 at 0500. Potential entrants can submit applications for 2020 at r2ak.com/r2ak-race-application.
Dave Robertson is a freelance writer based in western Canada.