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By SAM ALLEN
Daily News Staff Writer
Team Angry Beaver "biked" into Thomas Basin on Monday afternoon, snagging the first-place prize of $10,000 in Race to Alaska's 750-mile non-motorized "boat" race.
The six-man team from Port Ludlow, Washington, finished the race at 2:56 p.m. Monday — four days, three hours and 56 minutes after starting the second leg of R2AK on Thursday in Victoria, British Columbia. It was the fastest time for a single-hull sailboat in the race's five-year history.
Earlier Monday, Team Pear Shaped Racing was within a mile of Team Angry Beaver. However, Pear Shaped’s tracking system did not work, so race spectators and competitors alike did not know its location.
In fact, coming in, according to Matt Pistay of Team Angry Beaver, they weren't sure if they had won. The last time Pistay saw Team Pear Shaped Racing’s 10.6-meter custom Chris Cochrane trimaran, it was two miles ahead.
Pear Shaped Racing arrived at 5:23 p.m. Monday , a few hours after Angry Beaver. Their prize? Steak knives.
This was the first time Team Angry Beaver-Skiff Racing Foundation participated in the race.
There are no rules about how many crew members to a vessel. Last year there was a remotely controlled drone sailboat with no crew—it didn't finish. While vessels cannot have a motor, many are powered with sails, paddles and peddles.
Team Angry Beaver's 40-foot Schock sailboat used all three, and had a unique feature. Crew member Brent Campbell, a Boeing engineer, rigged up two Cannondale racing bikes to rotating propellers and installed them to the back of the boat.
This allowed the crew members to put on biking shorts and shoes and clip in, powering the boat when there was no wind. With just the two bikes and two oars, the team could achieve speeds of two and a half knots.
Team Angry Beaver was rounded out by crew members Gavin Bracket, Alan Johnson, Simon Miles and Mats Elf.
Mats Elf, a veteran in the sailing scene in Seattle, was the chef. Elf pre-cooked everything ahead of time. All team members said they ate well. Meals included curry.
The team name comes from a hockey bar in Washington called The Angry Beaver, where the group met for a team meeting, running out of good ideas for a team name several pitchers in.
Their race application, possibly filled out during shenanigans at the same bar, was submitted five minutes before deadline and boasted such inaccuracies as the vessel being made out of a "uranium like-substance" and a sponsorship by Victoria's Secret.
Jake Beattie came up with the idea of the Race to Alaska. He said he just liked the sound of it. And once they had they name, it made sense to go to Alaska. Since Ketchikan was the "First City" it made since to race there, otherwise, they'd be racing past Alaska, Beattie joked. In fact, that's kind of the idea behind the whole race.
Beattie said it's tongue-in-cheek. He said much of the racing world is inundated with rules and very serious competitions, the genesis of this was to be more lighthearted.
"It's poking fun at itself," he said.
While it might be a fun, there are significant challenges and dangers along the way. Beattie says that roughly 50% of teams that start the race don't finish.
This year, 49 vessels left Point Townsend, Washington, for the first leg of R2AK. Forty miles north in Victoria, all teams are required to check in within 48 hours and rest. This acts as a qualifier for the second 710-mile leg of the journey from Victoria to Ketchikan. Thirty-five teams left Victoria at 11 a.m. Thursday. By 4 p.m. Monday there were 32 teams left.
As of 9:15 p.m. Monday, Team Shut Up and Drive was nosing into Nichols Passage, while last year’s winner, Team Sail Like a Girl, was in fouth place about 45 miles from the finish line.
The hometown team this year is Team Ketchikan Yacht Club, sponsored by the local yacht club, made up of Mackenzie Dahl, Mike Firari, and Brian Lieb.
It touts a Santa Cruz 27 sailboat named Kermit. Dahl, who's captain of the team, is teamed with Lieb, from Juneau by way of Ketchikan, and Firari. Firari was on Team Ketchikan in 2016. They also have human powered pedals to assist the sails. At press time on Monday night Team Ketchikan Yacht Club was in 8th place with about 175 miles remaining.