MISSOULA — Two teams from Montana will navigate freighters, killer whales, grizzlies, hypothermia and tidal whirlpools while competing in an endurance race dubbed the Iditarod on a boat.
Team Pocket Rockanauts from Missoula and Team High Seas Drifters from Wilsall will compete in the sixth annual Race to Alaska starting June 13. The 750-mile competition through Alaska’s Inside Passage is the longest human and wind race in North America.
The Pocket Rockanauts team includes Karl Unterschuetz, Tim Hutchinson and Doug McCutchen. Their racing vessel is a 32ft Gougeon 32 catamaran with pedals. They are one of 49 teams entered in the competition, with contestants hailing from as far away as Maine, Florida, Australia and the United Kingdom.
The High Seas Drifters team consists of Shad Lemke, Shiloh Lemke, Jefferson Franklin, Mark Bostrom and Scott Wood. Their racing vessel is a 30-foot Olson 30 monohull that features two recumbent pedals. They placed sixth in 2019 and won the shortened 360 mile race in 2021.
The main rule is that the watercraft used cannot have an engine. Competing without support means there are no support boats, food deliveries, crew changes or contact with others for information or instructions.
Any size craft with any size crew can be used. The largest crew entered has seven members, while there are 12 solo competitors.
The first leg of the race is a 40-mile sprint from Port Townsend, Washington, to Victoria, British Columbia, through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The second leg is a 710-mile marathon from Victoria, BC to Ketchikan, Alaska.
There is no official route for the second leg, other than passing through the Bella Bella waypoint. A sweep boat – the Grim Sweeper – will depart on June 29 and if it overtakes a boat, that team is disqualified from the race.
No qualification is required to participate in the race. Team members must be able to clear Canadian and US customs throughout the race.
The first prize is $10,000. The second prize is a set of steak knives.
This is the first race since 2019 due to the pandemic in 2020 and the closure of the Canadian border in 2021. In 2019, only 25 of the 45 teams entered in the race ended up finishing.
Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at [email protected]