Race to Alaska: the “Race” Part

Kelsey Breseman
4 min readJun 25, 2022

“Are you in the race to Alaska?” Someone yells from the window of a house. It’s dusk, Campbell River. Graham and I are out pedaling as we make our slow way north, close to the shoreline.

“Yeah!” He shouts back.

“Good luck!”

We’ve had others: a boat we took for a whale watching boat until it began to cheer specifically, “Rho Your Boat!”, a lodge apparently doing a race tracker-based excursion to see us and others coming through.

At night in Johnstone strait, a hail on marine radio channel 16 from an ocean liner establishing that our courses would not cross, then signing off, “Good luck in the race!”

There is an official media boat that came and took our video interview and handed us homemade butter tarts.

It’s not like we wouldn’t do this voyage without the Race to Alaska; many sailboats make this cruise for the gorgeous scenery, the hot springs. But being in the race is different in much the way running in a marathon is different from running (or walking) 26 miles. There are other racers. There’s at least moral support set up. People other than you know and care about the finish line.

Also like a marathon, we’re not really in the class of likely winners. This is an adventure, a personal feat. At this point in the “race”, the prizes have literally already been handed out to the winners.

The rest of us strung out across the first several days into our own set of company. There’s the front pack. It could be argued that we’ve held down the very back of that front pack. But realistically, us, Goldfinch, and Louistic Supersonic are in a hard-fought battle for eleventh place.

Or, that’s how it looks on the map. That’s what makes the race tracker fun to watch: all the dots moving in the same direction lets you imagine quite a lot of cutthroat strategy.

In a weirdly Hunger Games twist, we gain greater mild celebrity merely by remaining in the race as other boats drop out: the rate of capsizes, dismastings, and log-damaged hulls has been high this year. Whenever the radio crackles on, we listen to hear if Coast Guard is rescuing another race boat; they almost always were, for the first few days. And we’re still here.