Thursday, July 5, 2018

J/88 BLUE FLASH- Race 2 Alaska Done!

J/88 Blue Flash Race to Alaska team (Port Townsend, WA)- On Saturday, June 16th, the infamous Race to Alaska started off Port Townsend, WA for the first leg of 40nm.  Then, on Monday, June 18th, the “real race” took off to Ketchikan, Alaska for over 750nm up fearsome straits with currents up to 15 kts, tornado-puffs pealing down hillsides in 40 kt microbursts, and even midsummer snow off the Canadian maritime provinces of British Columbia and the “inside passage” north to Alaska.  The weather can be fearsome.  A race not for the faint of heart, that is for sure.

When the 2015 Race to Alaska was first announced, the premise was so absurd it woke up sailors far and wide with a wake-up call. No engine or support along 750 miles.  What reasonable person would tackle that challenge? Sure, the $10,000 first prize literally nailed to a piece of wood got everyone’s attention.  But, there’s no free lunch in life, and the cost of that ten grand was high.

J/88 Blue Flash sailing Race 2 Alaska raceThree years later, our over-wired, over-stressed, over-politicized planet remains in need of some pain and suffering to remind ourselves that, as John Maxwell notes, “You cannot overestimate the un-importance of practically everything.”

The 2018 edition of the R2AK delivered. Here’s the June 25 report from Ketchikan, Alaska:

Even for those who lack calloused fingertips and strained tendons commonly associated with “tracker finger,” just watching the dock in Ketchikan provides all the cues needed to predict the imminent arrival of another Race to Alaska team.

Regardless of the time of day (usually late) or amount of rain (usually a lot), the procession down the docks starts with people, then the cameras and microphones of local press plus the R2AK media team, then a bell on a stand from the Ketchikan Yacht Club, a six-pack or two of congratulatory beer, and a uniformed customs officer.

Sometimes, there’s also a guy playing bagpipes. Sometimes, someone brings a shotgun. To date, these two have remained peacefully unrelated.

Women crew Sail Like A Girl win Race 2 AlaskaFans crowd the docks, line the piers and breakwater, and wait for the first hoot from the first sighting to break the damn of pent-up enthusiasm and respect and what follows is a rolling wave of joyous elation that brings people together, lifting their voices, bagpipes, and the occasional shotgun blast to a heart-warming cacophony that serves as encouragement and an audible navigational aid for their final 500 feet.

On Monday June 25th, that scene played out six times as the first echelon of finishers touched the dock, rang the bell, drank the beer, cleared customs, and had one reaction or another to the bagpipes.  First to finish at 12:17 AM with a champagne shower was Team Sail Like A Girl- it was a joyous celebration for the all-women crew of seven, first to ring the bell, and immediately announcing that all $10,000 nailed to the board would go to the women’s Breast Cancer research- kudos to them for a job well done!  

Several hours later, J/88 Team BLUE FLASH hove into view, much to the delight of many on the crowded dock.  Scott Grealish’s son Sean and five other crewmembers, all under-25, sailed their J/88 BLUE FLASH into the Ketchikan finish line as the sixth boat overall around 1635 hours.  That they even finished was a reward in itself as the youngest adventurers ever to accomplish that feat.

The party for top boats at Race 2 Alaska in Ketchikan Yacht ClubThe team of six had an average age of 19.4 when they started the race (one just graduated high school a few weeks ago). Their race was one of competent prudence that outpaced their age. They arrived unscathed, boat intact, and other than burgers on the mind, none the worse for wear and tear.  An amazingly mature group of kids.

Team BlueFlash: “In the R2AK spirit we’d like to start a tradition for the youngest team in the race. In this bag are our sporks— we’ve all signed them. We’d like the youngest team in the next R2AK to carry them for good luck.”

Race Boss: “Did you wash them?”

Team BlueFlash: “No.”

Proud Dad- Scott: “You guys sailed 218 miles in the last 24 hours!”

Everyone else: “WOOOHOOOOO!”

Race 2 Alaska finish line crowdsTeam Sail Like a Girl: “So, what was it like sailing with a boat full of boys?”

Maisey (the only girl on Team BlueFlash): "Ha ha! (lots of laughter)

Team BlueFlash: “I think we’ve proved that a bunch of young and stupid people could sail a really good race!”

Tim Penhallow- Team Boatyard Boys (Winners in 2015): “Well, thanks for coming and joining the old stupid people!” (laughing).

As the sun set on the official awards ceremony and the block party that mixed Ketchikan regulars with R2AK’s temporary residents, old and young, stupid and stupid alike. The celebrations continued into the long Alaskan night (really more like an extended twilight!).  Here is the “live video” of the J/88 BLUE FLASH arrival in Ketchikan, Alaska- on Facebook   Follow J/88 Blue Flash on Instagram   Follow the Race 2 Alaska on Facebook here  For more Race 2 Alaska sailing information