Updated: R2AK leaders near the top of Vancouver Island

UPDATE, 9 p.m. 6/13/17: Some news at the front of the pack. The Burd brothers, in the lead, left Malcolm Island to port and went up through George Passage. Bad Kitty, in second, appeared to gamble, leaving Malcolm Island to starboard and went through Broughton Strait. Big Broderna, in third, followed the Burd Brothers. As […]

UPDATE, 9 p.m. 6/13/17:

Some news at the front of the pack. The Burd brothers, in the lead, left Malcolm Island to port and went up through George Passage. Bad Kitty, in second, appeared to gamble, leaving Malcolm Island to starboard and went through Broughton Strait. Big Broderna, in third, followed the Burd Brothers. As of 2100 Tuesday night, it appears the gamble didn’t work. Bad Kitty is now in third and Big Broderna is in second trying to reel in the Burd Brothers. They’re all at the top of Vancouver Island with a lot of water ahead of them, so one can’t get too confident or disappointed.

Team 3 and ½ Aussies is alone in 4th place about midway in Johnstone Strait and Ketch me if you can is in 5th starting their run at Johnstone.

Five teams above the Narrows but slack is 9:19 with six teams at Campbell River with more arriving shortly. Two of those six, Roger Mann on Discovery and West Coast Wild Ones, appear poised to take advantage of the evening slack. The others may wait until either the 3:51 a.m. slack or perhaps the 8:58 slack. Between the evening slack and the 3:51 slack the current is moving in the right direction, but with strong eddies and whirlpools. Arriving near peak current last night, the Burd brothers faced a choice. Wait and watch their lead diminish or go for it. I’m not privy to their deliberation, but their description was great:

They recalled the entry into the narrows as the “darkest of dark you can imagine and nearly max current”.  Fading wind, little steerage but they were prepared – hatch covers, Ocean Rodeo suits, headlamps, and deck vests on. As they entered “the gut of the narrows” they could hear, but not see, breaking waves. “Here we go!” they thought. Only to find that the breaking waves were really a school of 30 to 40 porpoises. I suspect they were Pacific Whitesided Dolphins, but in any case the porpoises/dolphins played with their bow and made an already memorable trip that much more memorable.

The next 10 hours or so will be great to watch on who makes what decision. I suspect the 8:58 slack will be a busy one for R2AK, although the aggressive may try earlier.

Pear Shaped Racing has formally retired and Team Kairos is having some issues with their row cruiser and trying to make repairs.

Sistership hit some rocks exiting Active Pass and has posted some heartbreaking posts. Their centerboard is jammed in the up position and they were just towed back to Nanaimo. They’ll need to be hauled out of the water and then make the decision whether or not to carry on and go for Ketchikan. It’s tough watching the live posts they’ve made — the disappointment is palpable.  I’m hoping they go for it as they can still find their race picking off the slower craft. They’ve got a good boat and a good crew.

If there’s a most improved boat, team Kelp had a good day. Would have been better had they gotten up a little earlier the past few days (ahem:).

More on the smaller human powered boats later – they are holding their own and the North2Alaska guys are really making a fine accounting of themselves.

As this missive closes, I’m thinking about Roger Mann, alone in his boat, making the 9 p.m. slack. He’s not going to get much sleep tonight.

UPDATE, 9 a.m. 6/13/17: 

Team Pure & Wild/Freeburd, Team Bad Kitty and Team Big Broderna are building a lead in Johnstone Strait. Click on the image to view tracker live.

The overall picture hasn’t changed much, but the Burd brothers didn’t wait for slack and took Seymour Narrows on shortly after midnight. Bad Kitty and Big Broderna also got through the checkpoint at Campbell River and are through the Narrows. The Burd brothers hold roughly a 15 nautical mile lead over Bad Kitty, slightly less than what they had leading up to Campbell River. The wind is blowing and they’ve got an adverse current at present.

Roger Mann was up early as were the boys in North2Alaska and Matt Prius in Viz Reporter.

A quick note on North2Alaska: When I was in Port Townsend, I looked at this boat. It’s a high school project, a home made welded aluminum sharpie. Their oars appeared to be crude affairs so heavy they were counter balanced with zincs. The unstayed masts wobbled and the thought of five souls aboard (four teenagers just graduated from high school plus one dad), made me shudder. Privately I didn’t give them much of a shot to make it to Victoria much less Ketchikan. There’s still a lot of water between them and Ketchikan, but they have put in long days and the last two mornings beat the sun up getting underway.  Ahead of some faster, more capable boats, these guys are bring their A game and then some. This morning they left Lasqueti Island and are headed north. In any case, my earlier assessment of their chances was flat wrong. And being wrong on something like this makes me very happy as it’s exactly that type of performance by young people that provides hope for the future.

Team Sistership took an odd turn last night, getting out of the strait and pulled into French Creek. No movement yet this morning. Hope all is well with them. The rest of the field is scattered throughout Georgia Strait.

It’s another day for R2AK!

Original Post, 9:30 p.m. 6/12/17:

Screen shot of the race tracker at 9:32 p.m. Click on the image to view the tracker live.

R2AK is off and running. Similar to the start at Port Townsend, the Victoria re-start was in calm weather. Unlike the Port Townsend start, the forecasted calm wind was supposed to last all day.

Unfortunately, when the racers took off from Victoria Harbour at high noon on Sunday it was marred by a collision between a powerboat and team Oaracle. The powerboat came up behind the rowers and caused some damage, but fortunately no injuries.   Clearly the overtaking and hence burdened vessel, the powerboat’s operator yelled at the rowers and reportedly took off — the equivalent of an aquatic hit and run.

Just days before, the Port Townsend to Victoria race was really two races. Or, more candidly, a race then a fight for survival. The predicted heavy wind arrive and, in the words of Jake Beattie, “went from zero to 50 as if it had something to prove.” For a full recap of that leg, Jake’s writing is well worth a read.

As of this writing, Monday afternoon, Team Pure and Wild/Freeburd, with the brothers Burd ( Tripp, Chris and Trevor) are opening up a commanding lead, charging up the Strait of Georgia despite hitting something hard last night. Overnight and earlier into the morning Pear Shaped Racing had been giving them competition, but a log strike at 8 knots sent them into Nanaimo for inspection.

The Burd brothers vessel has a nice combination of fast sailing, an effective propulsion system (Pedal powered) and three athletic young men as crew. They can deal with calms, they can deal with wind and they don’t have to stop. They were the first sailboat to arrive in Victoria, arriving just minutes before Pear Shaped Racing, PT Watercraft and Bad Kitty. All fast boats, but the log strike certainly impacted the Pear Shaped team and PT Watercraft has a crew of one, who will need to sleep. Bad Kitty and Big Broderna are sure to provide some competition, but it’s setting up to have the Burd brothers get through Seymour Narrows a slack or two before their nearest rival. They’re aiming for the slack around 2000 hours tonight.

Of the three paddleboarders, Karl Kruger is showing how it’s done. He was up early this morning and moving – currently the first of the primarily human powered craft.  Following close behind is Rod Price in his canoe (looks like a kayak with training wheels, but he’s got a single sided paddle and technically it’s a canoe) and Viz Reporter (Matt Prius). All three opted to avoid Dodd Narrows and went through False Narrows shortly after noon. The other two paddle boarders, Luke Burritt and Edrogan Kirac with ‘Stoked on Fuel” have been at Van Isle Marina all morning but got underway shortly after noon and opted to go through Sansum narrows. So far, all the other teams going up the inside opted to take Trincomali Channel.

Roger Mann opted for open water and surprisingly is ahead of larger boats with larger crews. If he slept at all last night, it wasn’t for very long.

The rest of the fleet is split between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ with the larger cats and tri’s headed outside and the primarily human powered craft going inside through the Gulf Islands. For the smaller teams unable to go 24 hours a day, the length of their day will make a difference. The Port Townsend high school boys were up and at it early this morning as were many of the teams.  Some chose to sleep in. As we’ve seen before, the cumulative effect of those different habits will string out the fleet over the next week.

Some of the teams did a hybrid approach, going up the inside, but escaping the Gulf Islands through one of the passes. Kelp and Sistership opted for Active pass, and North2Alaska and Adventourists took Porlier Pass.

Speaking of what’s coming next, it’s wind. There’s a strong wind warning in Johnstone Strait later today, tonight and tomorrow.  Thursday will be 25 – 35, but out of the southeast. From personal experience in a small boat with less than a foot of freeboard, Johnstone Strait can be brutal, but at least it’ll be a following sea on Thursday. The wind will pick up in Georgia Strait as well, making up for the earlier easy time for the human powered craft. Look for the racers to spread out. Some will take advantage of the wind and charge forward, others will try and avoid the wind respecting their vessels and perhaps their own limitations. This isn’t really a race. But then again, it is.

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