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way!

seascape 18 2I took part in the 2015 Race to Alaska as part of a two person team on a garage built catamaran. R2AK if you haven’t heard, is a 750 cold water adventure race that departs from Port Townsend, Washington and ends at Ketchikan, Alaska. Like most hair-brained ideas, this one was concocted over beers at the local bar. “Winner will take $10,000! Second up will get a set of steak knives!” I could just imagine how the conversation went when these guys birthed the idea for what’s becoming sailings biggest Outside Sailing race. Talk about disruption.
My race partner and I built our boat in forty-two beer fueled nights. We may have spent more on beer than on the boat itself. Working well into the night, drunk on opportunity and the fumes of adventure cooking, we decided if we were going to stick it to the man, we were going to occupy sailing!
Well, the bravado drained away, and like many of the other teams headed for Ketchikan, we failed. The weather handed us our ass. It had all been good fun, another good story to spin at the pub. Then, this past fall Northwest Maritime Center announced Race to Alaska Take 2. The race was on again. At first I ignored it, but Facebook made that tough to do. Besides I had unfinished business to complete.
My first attempt to enter the 2016 race was with a three hundred dollar Sunfish, but the race committee said “no way!” So, I started thinking about building another boat as an option. Then I got outlandish – Roskilde Viking Museum had a thirty meter long replica Viking ship for sale. Could I raise the money, find a crew and campaign in 2016? Doubtful.
Then one day I stumbled across the Seascape 18 on the web. She looked fast, had a sheltering cabin, straight forward rig, is beach-able and just maybe was adaptable to human power. The Seascape line had just arrived in the US from Europe where they have a large following. The Seascape 18 and 27 had both wowed the crowd at Annapolis and the 18 won Boat of the Year in its class. Besides, the 18 looked fast and fun on YouTube. Within a week I had contacted Toralf Strand, the US Seascape rep, and booked a flight to Boston for a test sail. This was late October 2015 when the Northeasterlies can bring snow at a moment’s notice. But the weather held and I got my test sail on a brisk, sunny fall day with plenty of wind. I was hooked and had committed to a new boat.
Not one to do things the easy way, I planned a road trip from Seattle, Washington to Kittery, Maine so I could pick-up by boat and trailer her home. After a six thousand mile round trip, pit-stopping for a quick winter raft trip down the Gallatin River, I arrived safely in Seattle, with the Seascape 18 still intact. Though my nerves weren’t quite as intact, as I had 6000 road miles to really think about my entry in R2AK. But I had invested in the boat, sent in the entry fees, so there was no turning back. R2AK, or bust.
Starting gun is June 23, just about three weeks away. I’m glad I didn’t commit to building another boat. Instead of still messing about in the garage, I’m out sailing and figuring out how to eek as much speed out of this boat. As a solo racer, the boat performs well and so far I’ve kept the keel pointing downwards (most of the time). Now I just need to decide how little I need to bring for the 750 cold-water mile run from Port Townsend Washington to Ketchikan Alaska.
– Thomas Nielsen