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The Ship of Fools joins 38 other teams in a 1,200km race across the ocean with no motors
Today the first leg begins of the Race to Alaska (R2AK), a physical endurance race that forbids vessels from having motors or supports. Monday's first leg is a 64-kilometre “Proving Ground” qualifier from Port Townsend, Washington to Victoria.
Racers come from across the globe to compete, with varying experience. This year, five of the 39 teams are from the Island: four of them from right here in Victoria and one from Campbell River. They are all competing for the grand prize of $10,000, and the vessels that they will compete in range from rowing boats and kayaks to monohulls and corsairs.
“It’s a race, but it’s much more than that, it’s an adventure,” said Kevin Greenwood, team member of Victoria’s Ship of Fools.
The Ship of Fools is a six-person team racing in an 11-metre-long engineless monohull. The team has made a number of modifications to the boat to allow it to be propelled even when there is no wind, including rigging a set of oars and installing a patio with a pedal propeller.
“Our main objective is to not live up to our team name,” said Greenwood. The Ship of Fools is an allegory about a ship with a dysfunctional crew from Plato’s Republic. “Basically our objective is to get there safely and still on speaking terms with each other, we’re certainly not going to win it, that’s not our objective, it’s really about doing the trip.”
The Ship of Fools team has been preparing for the race since October and has participated previously in various Vancouver Island racing series.
Victoria’s Scott Macdonald will be racing solo in an NDK Explorer HV kayak under the name Sporting Chance.
“I have been dreaming about this race for the last six years, watching others compete and challenge themselves, following their progress each June as they made their way up the coast,” said Macdonald, who started kayaking two years ago. Macdonald aims to cover 60km a day, hoping to arrive in Ketchikan, Alaska in 18 days. Macdonald is using the race to raise funds for KidSport Victoria, a charity that aims to remove financial barriers to organized sport.
“My training has consisted of many long distance weekend trips over the last six months,” said Macdonald. “I have covered the entire south coast from Port Renfrew to Brentwood Bay and circumnavigated most of the local Southern Gulf Islands.”
The second leg of the race, spanning 1,142km from Victoria to Ketchikan, will kick-off Thursday at noon from the Inner Harbour. The public can watch the 39 teams race down to their boats and paddle or row out into the harbour. Aside from one waypoint in Bella Bella, there is no set course and racers can choose whether to go up the Strait of Juan de Fuca or brave the Pacific Ocean.
For those hoping to get a closer look at the competing vessels before they start the second leg, an open dock will be hosted Wednesday, June 7 in the Inner Harbour. Once they’re off, a 24-hour online tracker will be available for spectators to follow all 39 teams’ progress and see exactly where they are along the race course.