Paddle, row or sail in a $10,000 'Race to Alaska'


Long distance rowers, paddlers and sailors compete next summer in a first-ever Race to Alaska that offers a $10,000 prize – and no fuel bill.

The Northwest Maritime Center has begun accepting applicants for the unique, non-motorized, 750-mile marathon scheduled to begin June 4, 2015 in Port Townsend.

The cash prize of $10,000 goes to the first competitor to reach Ketchikan without the aid of an engine, according to NWMC Executive Director Jake Beattie.

“It’s kind of a Gold Rush thing,” Beattie said. "If you get there first, you win 10 grand.”

The Race to Alaska is scheduled to begin June 4, 2015, on Port Townsend Bay, with a 40-mile first leg to Victoria, BC. Any paddler, rower or sailor is invited to participate in that leg without committing to the full race to Ketchikan.

Racers who complete the first leg without assistance qualify for the full race, scheduled to begin the following day.

Contestants are not allowed to have any kind of motor on board – neither gas nor electric, Beattie said. There is no limit on the number of crew, but no substitutions are allowed. To qualify for the prize, racers must be on board for the entire race.

“People do this trip in engineless boats every year,” Beattie said. “but there’s never been a race. Our goal is to do something cool that inspires people to adventure, that pays for itself, and which helps raise awareness about accessibility to the water.”

Racers who complete the first leg and are able to continue can clear customs in Victoria. The second, 710-mile stage begins at 10 a.m., June 6. Other than two waypoints at Seymour Narrows, about halfway up Vancouver Island, and Bella Bella, a small village on Campbell Island about 300 miles from Ketchikan, each person's course is their own.

Boats must be self-supported. They can stop in towns along the way for food, equipment, rest, etc., but private resupply or support boats are not allowed. "Any services utilized must always be available to all challengers and not pre-arranged," according to the NWMC website.

Successful race applicants should be proficient in navigation, first aid, radio use and logistics, and should be able to demonstrate that they have the physical ability and equipment to make the voyage.

Beattie expects participation from Olympic-caliber athletes and people who have been around boats for years. It's meant to be an adventure, which is why the NWMC website includes this disclaimer: "Legal counsel has advised us to remind you that this ... could be pretty dangerous. You should probably just forget about the whole thing."

For more information go to or contact: Jake Beattie, 360-385-3628, ext. 105


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