CWB Staffers in R2AK 2016

The Race to Alaska (R2AK) will be run for a second time this summer, and this year, two adventurous employees from The Center for Wooden Boats will be among the participants. South Lake Union Livery Manager, Elena Losey, and Adult & Family Sailing Manager, Kristin Pederson, have teamed up to participate in the first stage of the grueling test of sailing experience and personal endurance.

If you are not already familiar with the R2AK, it has been described as the Iditarod on a boat. Racers are required to complete the 750-mile course through the Inside Passage to Alaska, using only human and wind power. The course from Port Townsend, WA to Ketchikan, AK can be navigated in any boat that does not have an engine. The rules, posted on the official race website, state that “a boat of any size can be powered by wind, paddling or rowing.”

Elena and Kristin have chosen a 35-year-old 20’ fiberglass sloop-rigged sailboat, named Holdfast, to carry them across the 40 miles of open water from the starting point of the race in Port Townsend to the stage one finish in Victoria, BC. Holdfast will be modified by adding oar locks in case the wind does not cooperate with their race plan.

The race consists of two primary stages, the 40-mile “Proving Ground” and the 710-mile “Long Haul North.” As this is the first time either of the sailors have participated in a competitive race of this length and magnitude, they have decided to limit their first year in the race to Stage One, ending in Victoria. The first stage is a 36-hour sprint crossing two shipping lanes and an international border in some of the biggest water of the entire R2AK. Teams that continue on will pass through two additional waypoints at Seymour Narrows and Bella Bella before finally finishing in Ketchikan.

The rules also state that the boat may have a crew of any size so long as the crew is onboard for the entire race. Elena and Kristin will sail the course together as two-person Team KELP. Together, Team KELP will begin training in January for the unexpected. Elena and Kristin will be rowing the waters of Lake Union regularly for the first six months of the year to prepare their bodies for the chance those new oar locks must be put to use. Additionally, they will each sail Holdfast solo several times in the Puget Sound to familiarize themselves with all aspects of the boat in a variety of conditions.

This training regimen is designed to supplement Team KELP’s existing sailing skills. Elena has been sailing for six years, since learning the sport on the waters of Lake Michigan near her hometown of Chicago. After falling in love with sailing, Elena headed to the Pacific Northwest where she crewed on the Schooner Adventuress for two seasons before joining the team at The Center for Wooden Boats. Kristin has been around the sport since childhood having grown up sailing her parents’ Catalina 27. She began teaching sailing in 2012 and has been an instructor at CWB since 2013.  Kristin has had a bit of prior experience racing on the Inside Passage while crewing during portions of the annual Van Isle 360 race.

While their colleagues at CWB are rooting for a first place stage one finish, Team KELP hopes to realistically finish the challenge in 10 to 24 hours, with as few blisters as possible.

We wish Team KELP well with their training and best of luck in the big race!

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