Race to Alaska is on for 2017: Will you be at the start line?

2016 R2AK winner Team MAD Dog Racing rips across the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards Victoria. (Photo courtesy of Race to Alaska by Northwest Maritime Facebook page.)

2016 R2AK winner Team MAD Dog Racing rips across the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards Victoria. (Photo courtesy of Race to Alaska by Northwest Maritime Facebook page.)

The Northwest Maritime Center announced on Friday that the Race To Alaska will run again in 2017 and that details will be announced September 9 at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

While many fans had speculated that the race’s annual return was a given, at this point race organizers say they are only committing to one year at a time. “We took a few weeks to make sure that the race was still living up to the reasons we started it,” said Jake Beattie, R2AK Founder and Executive Director of the Northwest Maritime Center. “2016 had world class seamanship, incredible adventures, and racers stayed safe.” Other than a bear attack, there were relatively few safety incidents and organizers decided to do the race again in 2017.

Keeping to their one year old tradition, no details of the race were given at the time of announcement but Beattie added that “People should expect at least one change.” At present time, the rules to the R2AK are incredibly simple: Get a boat without an engine and race the 750 miles to Alaska unsupported. There are two stages (a qualifying leg from Port Townsend to Victoria, Victoria to Ketchikan is the second stage), and other than two waypoints at Seymour Narrows and Bella Bella, the course is determined by racers. Winners get $10,000, second place gets a set of steak knives.

“Keeping the simplicity of the race is really important,” Beattie continued, “it turns out simple things are actually harder … plus we’re not really big on rules.” The coming change will hope to maintain the simplicity while honoring the original idea to create an event that encouraged people to get on the water to find adventure in whatever craft they chose. “Don’t worry, Larry Ellison is still invited.”

Details of the 2017 race will be announced at an event called the Blazer Party, so named for the rack of thrift store blazers issued to racers. Racers completing both stages of the race get a blazer with both sleeves, volunteers and scissors are standing by to remove a sleeve for every stage left incomplete. Tickets are available on a first come first served basis, with priority for NWMC members and charter members of the R2AK Yacht Club, a virtual organization unveiled at the same moment the 2017 race was announced. “We have virtual locations worldwide!” boasts the website.

For details about the Race to Alaska, the R2AK Yacht Club, and attending the Blazer Party and/or the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, go to r2ak.com for details and ticket information.

Race To Alaska Launches Virtual Yacht Club—Virtual Locations Worldwide!

Have you ever wanted to say you were a member of a yacht club but realized that you don’t have the time, boat or inclination to join? The Race to Alaska virtual yacht club could be your answer. The website reads: “Think of it like becoming an internet minister, but for yacht clubs.”

The Race to Alaska has started an online yacht club that boasts virtual locations worldwide. In the egalitarian and irreverent spirit of the R2AK, anyone can join, and everyone is a Vice Commodore. Ten dollars and you can print out your own membership card, for $125 you also get a captains hat, a T-shirt that looks like a double breasted blue blazer (complete with ascot), a Vice Commodore coffee mug, and a parking pass that is valid “everywhere people don’t look closely at parking passes.”

For those who aren’t satisfied with being a Vice Commodore, there is also the chance to be the Commodore. In the simple efficiency the R2AK is known for, rather than years of recruitment and buying rounds of golf and cocktails, the honor of being the Commodore of the R2AKYC is being auctioned off on eBay to the highest bidder. Not only does the Commodore get to start the 2017 R2AK, get a flight to Ketchikan to greet the winners, VIP Passes to all R2AK events, they also get a sash and what the website describes as a “Gaddafi style hat so everyone knows you’re the boss.”

More info about joining the R2AKYC and becoming the Commodore at r2ak.com/yachtclub.

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