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Ruckus opens Race to Alaska

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It’s time to party in Port Townsend this week and wish bon voyage to 63 boaters heading out to sea on a 750-mile Race to Alaska (R2AK).

“We were on CBS Sunday Morning today,” said Jake Beattie, a cofounder of the race and current executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center, in an email.

And this year, in addition to the Race to Alaska, which was held later in June last year, Port Townsend and Chimacum high school graduations are scheduled at Fort Worden State Park on Friday and Saturday.

And those aren’t the only events going on this week. The Brass Screw Confederacy festival also is happening from Friday to Sunday, and a Port Townsend Pride March is set for Saturday. (See stories on page A5.)

As of Tuesday, there still were hotel openings, but lodging at bed-and-breakfasts was limited, according to Lorna Mann, manager of the Port Townsend Visitor Center.

“The volunteers love telling people about the Race to Alaska. People are amazed that people are willing to go to Alaska without a motor on their boat,” Mann said.

RACE TO ALASKA

Boats were starting to show up over the weekend for the third annual Race to Alaska, which gets underway at 5 a.m., Thursday, June 8 with 63 teams, including 93 new racers and 41 returning racers.

“It feels like a reunion,” said Anika Colvin, the race’s communications manager. “You have previous racers and now in year three, you have more and more returning to be part of the event.”

Port Townsend’s own racer send-off happens June 7 in the form of a block party to wish good luck to all Race to Alaska participants. The Race to Alaska Pre-Race Ruckus offers food, good “swill” and music from 3 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 7 at and around the Northwest Maritime Center (NWMC), 431 Water St. By design, the Pre-Race Ruckus is held midweek so as not to burden hotels during the weekend, Beattie said.

Boats and watercraft are to be on display in Pope Marine Park and Point Hudson during race safety check-ins, so people can get up close and personal with the racers. There also are two free public talks.

Beattie is set to talk about “Three Years of a Bad Idea: Behind the Scenes of R2AK,” at 1 p.m., Wednesday, June 7 at the American Legion, Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post 26, 209 Monroe St.

Josh Collins, a special operations veteran and stand-up paddler, is set to give a presentation titled “3,500 Miles for Veterans: Texas to New York on a Paddleboard,” at 5 p.m. at the Legion Hall.

Uncle Funk and the Dope 6 take the stage at 5 p.m. at the Pope Marine Park for music and dance.

The race, which begins at the Northwest Maritime Center dock, has two stages: Stage 1, “The Proving Ground,” is a 40-mile run between Port Townsend and Victoria Harbour, British Columbia. Those who do that run within 36 hours “prove” they have the skills to go the distance.

Most racers are expected to arrive by June 8. There’s an arrival cutoff time of 5 p.m., June 9.

Stage 2, also known as “The Bitter End,” begins at noon, Sunday, June 11. It’s unknown how many of those teams that start in Port Townsend will be able to go all the way to Ketchikan.

Technically speaking, R2AK teams are “entirely self-supported, with no supply drops and no safety net,” R2AK officials said.

“A chase boat with the moniker of the Grim Sweeper brings up the rear to tap out entrants who have not made it to Ketchikan by July 4,” organizers said.

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