R2AK

Racing vessels prepare to start the Race to Alaska on June 3, 2019, in Port Townsend, Washington. The 2020 Race to Alaska has been canceled due to the novel coronavirus. It will return in June 2021. Photo by Taylor Balkom

The writing might have been on the wall, but the Northwest Maritime Center made it official on Friday.

The 2020 Race to Alaska has been canceled.

The nonprofit center based in Port Townsend, Washington has overseen the Race to Alaska since its inception in 2015.

The 750-mile trek, which begins in the town located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and finishes in Ketchikan, at Thomas Basin, has ridden the waves of ups and downs in its brief history.

And each season, the Race to Alaska has overcome adversity — until this year.

Typically accomplished in two stages, the Race to Alaska goes from Port Townsend to Vancouver, British Columbia, and from Vancouver to Ketchikan.

And as the novel coronavirus pandemic continued to spread, the NWMC rolled with each punch.

The U.S. and Canada agreed to restrict travel across the shared border earlier this spring, and the NWMC was open to adjusting the route.

But in considering the route, and the different communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska, NWMC felt that ultimately canceling the race was the best decision.

“We could race; there is a route around all the closures,” the NWMC said in a press release. “But ... could isn’t should, and it’s not worth the risk for racers or communities along the way.”

Thirty-two teams had signed up for the sixth annual Race to Alaska, which would’ve set sail on June 8.

Participants from all over the world — including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom — were scheduled to compete. Nine different states would have been represented, as well.

Because the NWMC is canceling the event, 100% of the fees will be refunded the teams, according to the race’s website.

“We still plan on honoring the humans who signed up for 2020,” the organization said. “... Sure, there’s no race. But these people are still awesome, and you should know about them.”

The NWMC has already announced plans for the next year’s race, and circled June 7, 2021 as a start date.

Only human and wind-powered vessels are allowed in the Race to Alaska, with the grand prize winner receiving $10,000. Second-place is awarded a set of steak knives.

The NWMC also announced Friday that it canceled its SEVENTY48 competition. The 70-mile boat race is completed in 48 hours, and only human-powered vessels are allowed, as well.

The new date for SEVENTY48 is scheduled for June 4, 2021.