Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trimaran About To Win Engineless Race to Alaska, Calamities Abound In Its Wake

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
Team Elsie Piddock's trimaran, at center, obliterated the rest of the field during the Race to Alaska including these other trimarans moored fore and aft in Port Townsend on the eve of the adventure race.

Team Elsie Piddock, a Seattle-based team of experienced open-ocean racers, are about to win the inaugural Race to Alaska.

The epic 750-mile engineless boat race up the Inside Passage has witnessed much nautical carnage in the leader’s wake. As of late Thursday night, 21 boats remained in the race out of the 28 that cast off from Victoria, British Columbia on Sunday.

A qualifying leg from Port Townsend, Washington, to Victoria last week did the initial winnowing of the field.

Race To Alaska founder Jake Beattie scrambled to get to Ketchikan to be in position in time to award the $10,000 top prize.

“The first-place team is going so fast, that they might beat the banner that we mailed here,” he said. “So the first -place team might be faster than UPS.”

Beattie said Team Elsie Piddock’s three-man crew aboard a 25-foot trimaran reported that during this race they have faced the worst seas they have ever been in.

“Forty knots of wind on the nose, 5 knots of currents behind them, so the seas were confused and steep and torturous,“ Beattie said.

Broken masts, leaking hulls and other calamities have caused many competitors to drop out or pause for repairs. This week, a team in a small outrigger sailing kayak had to be rescued in a gale by a Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft.

The likely race winners in their F-25c trimaran held a lead on Friday morning of about 200 miles over the next fastest boat, a mono-hull dubbed Team Por Favor. The prize for second place is a set of steak knives.

Team Elsie Piddock is on track to sail into Ketchikan harbor around midday on Friday.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.