R2AK, the Race to Alaska, ideal boat?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by scotdomergue, Sep 10, 2014.

  1. scotdomergue
    Joined: Jan 2009
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    scotdomergue Scot

    Hello all,

    I haven't been here much lately. I did a couple of searches and didn't find anything related to the Race to Alaska (R2AK, http://racetoalaska.com). It's 750 miles, engineless, with no outside support - from Port Townsend, WA to Ketchikan, AK via Victoria, BC, with check-in's at Seymour Narrows and Bella Bella (both in BC). You might consider it like the Everglades Challenge, doubled, on steroids, though you don't have to launch your boat from the beach.

    The first leg, on June 4, from Port Townsend to Victoria, BC is a qualifying day+ (must finish without being rescued). The real race is 710 miles, starting on June 6, from Victoria to Ketchikan. There are big tides (15 feet and more) and strong currents (up to 15 knots through Seymour narrows, lesser currents in other areas); likely weather ranges from dead calm to gale force winds. There are major shipping lanes, big cruise ships, and big ferries. A couple of sections (30 or so miles long) are open to the North Pacific. Participants will have to choose their own routes and make their own go-no go decisions if storms come in. Other than having no engine on board (not even sealed for emergencies) and no support (it's OK to stop for supplies, but nothing pre-arranged and nothing that isn't available to all participants), there are almost no rules. It's very unlikely that a solo boat can win; so two man teams, one sailing/rowing while the other sleeps, make sense if you're after the big prize (rather than just a first in class or simply completing the race).

    There is a $10,000 prize for first finisher, steak knives for 2nd };-). There will be all the usual classes, but prize only for the first overall.

    I'm currently planning to design and build a small, lightweight tri with tiny cabin, sliding-seat row-able when the wind dies. I have no experience with multi-hulls (I have researched/studied small tri's and cruising tri's.). I'll be interested in ideas/suggestions/discussion.

    Other ideas about what would be the ideal boat?

    I encourage anyone interested to look at the website and get involved.
    Scot
     
  2. Leo Lazauskas
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

    Can you ram other boats?
     
  3. bpw
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    bpw Senior Member

    I would go for the biggest fastest sailboat I could get my hands on and sail it with a big crew. Sure you will be slow in the calms, but you will be way faster than any oar powered boat anytime there is more than a couple knots of breeze.

    It looks like they are trying for a small oar and sail race and they should maybe tighten the rules a bit before someone shows up on something like a open 60 and wipes the entire fleet out.
     
  4. scotdomergue
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    scotdomergue Scot

    This is an interesting issue. I think that the engineless requirement is expected to discourage any such. Realize that the engine in such a boat would have to actually be removed to make it qualify for the race. There is some question on whether someone with a large, expensive boat would risk being becalmed in Seymour Narrows, in shipping lanes, or in some other risky place without recourse to an engine. I've heard someone suggest that they could have a friend in a power boat accompany and only be disqualified if they actually took a tow.

    The area and time of year tend to have significant periods of calm. A boat design meeting at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend last weekend had a lot of discussion about the ideal boat for the race and seemed to lean toward the idea that so much of the time would be calm or nose-on wind that a rowboat was likely to win. I don't think that is the case, and fear that a really fast multihull could take it as you suggest.

    The boat I'm designing should be reasonably fast sailing (for a small multi) and not bad rowing. But it would be no competition for a big, fast multi if there's enough wind. And over 710 miles, there may well be enough time/area with wind that no boat small enough to be human powered could make up for the speed of the big, fast multi's during the times they had wind.

    So perhaps there is a need for some additional rule, perhaps even launch from the beach above high tide mark by the crew as I believe is required in Watertribe races.

    Anyone else care to weigh in on this?
     
  5. bpw
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    bpw Senior Member

    710 miles is a couple good days sailing for a fast race boat, even a monohull. Even in headwinds a sailboat (even a small one) will move a lot quicker than an oar or paddle craft. Was reading about the transpac this year and one of the big boats would do 7 knots in only 3 knots of true wind. They sailed over windspeed in anything under 14 knots true and after that they would go windspeed. I suspect many at a wooden boat gathering are a bit out of touch about how incredibly fast modern boats have become.

    Pulling an engine would be small change to anyone running a big boat program, but I doubt it will be an issue since not many people running big boat sailing programs will be interested.

    However, with a little cooperation from the wind I suspect a 30-something foot racing sailboat could do quite well. Throw a sculling oar aboard and you could still be making a couple knots in the calms. A half dozen sweeps and a strong crew could keep it moving along quite nicely. Sailboats would have a big advantage in that they could sleep a dozen crew without much trouble.

    It is an interesting challenge and I hope they do well enough to run the race a few times so the competitors can learn and develop some interesting boats. A simple max LOA rule would be easy to implement if things get out of hand.
     
  6. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    sounds like fun, but scary too. the everglades challenge has been dominated by old tornado cats, same thing could occur here. Particularly if there was some way to rig and efficient rowing or pedal rig.
     
  7. upchurchmr
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    upchurchmr Senior Member

  8. scotdomergue
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    scotdomergue Scot

    big fast sailboats?

    Anyone else want to weigh in on this question. The intent of the organizers is like that of the Watertribe, I think. They want to promote small boat adventuring and the development of suitable boats.

    Big, fast, expensive, racing sailboats winning it hands down isn't really the vision, but . . .

    Is that at all likely?

    Any other thoughts on the ideal boat for the race?
     
  9. NoEyeDeer
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    NoEyeDeer Senior Member

    Viking ship. :D

    (drakar, not knarr)
     
  10. scotdomergue
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    scotdomergue Scot

    Remember that this is 710 miles in early June in the NorthWest - even the fastest boats will take a few days and the weather is likely to be pretty cold. It's NOT a day race, it's not the Everglades Challenge in Florida. I don't know that a Tornado Cat would be suitable even if you could figure out how to move it with human power . . .
     
  11. Richard Woods
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    I wasn't able to go to the WBF discussion meeting as, like Petros, I was involved with the Edensaw Challenge, ie build a boat in 2days, sail/row it on the last day. Both of us did that and neither of our boats leaked when launched - unlike the winners!?

    I made a number of comments on the WB forum threads. I suggested straight away that the ex F40 Dragonfly would win, or maybe the 35ft Bad Kitty (the two fastest multihulls in the PNW, both of whom have raced over much of the race course - as have I, just this year I went to the Broughtons and I write this in Port Townsend).

    And that it would be feasible, although challenging, to have 10 rowers on the 70ft Icon (the fastest monohull in the PNW), after all the ancient Greeks could row much bigger boats

    Any of those boats could sail non stop and do the race in under a week, even allowing for the tidal gates. I also suggested that a fast boat would go outside all the way after Port Hardy, and only duck back in to the Shearwater check point.

    I don't suppose those boats are what the organisers envisaged, but right now nothing to stop them doing it. Bad Kitty could certainly be launched from a beach, and can get its mast down in the water by the crew so could get under a low bridge if the organisers tried to stop big boats entering.

    I know several multihull sailors who are looking seriously at the event, and I have a couple of potential entrants that I am discussing boats with.

    You should also investigate races like the RBR and 3 Peaks, where rowing is allowed for all boats, mono and multihull. My wife and I rowed our 35ft Banshee cruising catamaran across the finish line in the AZAB years ago, we got up to 2 knots on a 4T boat

    Richard Woods of Woods Designs

    www.sailingcatamarans.com
     
  12. bpw
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    bpw Senior Member

    Bad weather would be a big advantage for a large sailboat as well, modern race boats just keep going (very fast) in gale force and stronger conditions that would keep the little boats on the beach.
     
  13. Richard Woods
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    I agree, a rower will probably not leave the beach if he knows the waves are 2ft high and the headwind 30 knots. A sailboat (any hulls) could easily be doing 9 knots to windward and be 150 miles ahead even if he stops for the night. Then he can have 5 days rest before the rower catches him up (totally exhausted by then of course)

    I also made the point on the WB forum that there are not many stopping places, even though you are going through narrow passages. The water can typically be hundreds of feet deep right up to the shore, which might well be a 2000ft vertical cliff. It's wild country north of Campbell River.

    Look at this video I took this summer, check out where you would anchor or bring a boat up the beach. And it gets worse the further north you go. Water temperature was 47F by the way. That's not pleasant in the face (or back of the head if rowing) for hours at a time

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dlRG1M9ebg&list=UUhKTQtbKN5BaXFTg2BjcbqA

    The most wind I have had when sailing in the PNW was off Kelsey Bay in Johnston Strait. Having said that, in 10 summers I have only reefed twice, once rounding Cape Scott to windward in a F31 and once crossing the Strait of Georgia in my 25ft Merlin catamaran. It is generally a light wind area

    Richard Woods
     
  14. scotdomergue
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    scotdomergue Scot

    Richard, thanks for your posts.

    I hadn't found the Wooden Boat Forum thread until yesterday and then only looked at the first and last dozen or so messages. I'm now reading it all - about half way through.

    Do you think the fast cats, Dragonfly, Bad Kitty, and others, will enter the race?

    Scot
     

  15. Richard Woods
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    Some are talking about it, check their facebook pages. When I last looked there was no entry limit, nor last date to enter. So why spend the money now, why not wait until May? All Dragonfly and BK have to do is fit some rowing seats and they are ready. Both have sailed much of the course before so know what to expect.

    Richard Woods
     
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