Sunday, June 9, 2019

J/24 Starts Race 2 Alaska!

J/24 sailing Race 2 Alaska
(Vancouver, BC)- “June's arrival in the Pacific Northwest is a special time thanks to the area's unique sailing scene that includes events such as the Van Isle 360 (odd-numbered years), the Victoria to Maui International Yacht Race (even-numbered years), and the annual Race to Alaska (R2AK), the latter of which began yesterday (Monday, June 3) on the waters off of Port Townsend, Washington. While the former two races are exciting, the R2AK's rules add a significant level of commitment by forbidding competitors from sailing with engines. And we're not talking the honor system here: to be eligible to compete in the R2AK, a boat cannot carry auxiliary power, irrespective of the rocky and remote lee shores (sometimes populated with grizzly bears) that are part of the R2AK experience.

The first obstacle to overcome is the Johnstone Straits (yes, same family/ relative).  A foreboding, long, narrow, body of water everyone must transit heading north, famous for powerful, gusty winds rolling off towering snow-capped peaks and even stronger currents with a few tidal whirlpools thrown in.

Then, after going north past the Johnstone Straits, there's the even more formidable Seymour Narrows. This is a very narrow channel just north of the British Columbian fishing town of Campbell River, where tidal swings can generate up to 15 knots of current, and where even whales are said to wait for favorable waters to make their passage!!

So, it's fair to say that travelling to Alaska under human power (R2AK rules allow for paddles, peddle-driven propellers and sails) adds a significant complicating factor to the race while also testing each competitor's commitment to the dream with ample exposure to cold water, notoriously fickle winds, and plenty of hard-won local knowledge.

Then there's the obvious: cold, hypothermia-inducing water, wilderness coastlines, wild-card weather, and a serious need for self-sustainability.

On Thursday, June 6 at 12:00pm, the fleet will begin the 710 nautical mile leg to Ketchikan, which is first marked by the all-out sprint to make it through Seymour Narrows before the tidal window shuts and the current machine forces boats to circle above the whales. Then comes the dash for the $10,000 cash prize (and Ketchikan).

Amongst the fleet will be a team of young men sailing on a J/24, a first for this race. In the 40.0nm “qualifier”, Team MBR (McGuffin Brothers Racing) finished just 2 hours behind the fastest 30-foot trimaran. Last year’s winners, the all-women Sail Like A Girl M32 team finished just 45 minutes ahead (they finished 7th). It was a gear-buster, people-buster of a race, with winds gusting to 35 kts on the nose and big seas. The weather was so bad, that over half the fleet did not even “start” on the first day, as you had 36 hours to make the crossing across the capricious Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Who is Team MGR?  It was founded by twin brothers living on Saltspring Island,  B.C. and racing out of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. Cianan McGuffin, Finn McGuffin, Callum McGuffin, and Duncan Macdonald comprise the four-person team. Powered by the wind and oars, they will fight on in the grand tradition of the race to discover more about themselves, their inner souls, their tenaciousness, and the world around them. We wish them well.” Thanks for contribution from’s North American Editor- David Schmidt.  Follow TEAM MBR’s exploits on Instagram here   Here is Team MBR’s website  For more R2AK sailing information and tracking information Add to Flipboard Magazine.