37 teams made up of sailboats, a kayak and a paddle boat began racing up the West Coast from Washington heading 710 miles to Ketchikan on Thursday morning, in what is the start of the fourth Race to Alaska.
The first 40 miles of the race is a qualifying leg from Port Townsend, Washington, to Victoria, British Columbia. The race restarts in Victoria on Sunday. Only non-motorized watercraft are allowed.
Unlike past years though, there appears to be no clear favorites for which team might win the first prize of $10,000. The second prize is a set of steak knifes.
“We have some teams with Olympians, we have some teams with some really fast boats, but they’re not together. So it’s kind of a mixed bag,” Race to Alaska Executive Director Jake Beattie, said. “It’s the first time in years where we looked at the fleet and thought we have no idea who’s going to win.”
Like in the past, competitors come with unique stories. One team is a group of eight women trying to escape their family lives. There’s another team who are all 21-years-old or younger. And there’s Douglas Shoup, a man who lost over 100 pounds to qualify for the race.
Regardless of who wins, none of this could have been possible without Ketchikan’s support, Beattie said.
“We really feel, and I know the racers feel that they’re part of the community. The warm embrace of Ketchikan is a significant factor on why everyone loves this race so much,” Beattie said.