Bells and cheering on the Thomas Basin dock greeted sailors Matt Pistay, Gavin Bracket, Brent Campbell, Alan Johnson, Mats Elf and Simon Miles. Team Angry Beaver was the first boat to cross the Race to Alaska finish line and accept their congratulatory case of beer.
Named after their local Seattle bar, this was Team Angry Beaver’s first time competing in the 750-mile boat race from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska.
The race was a close call all morning between Team Angry Beaver and Team Pear Shaped Racing. Team Pear Shaped Racing had been posting from their social media accounts all morning, but their boat tracker wasn’t working. Team Angry Beaver managed to stay ahead.
“They had the advantage over us, with the tracker, because they always knew where we were. We never knew where they were,” said Angry Beaver racer Matt Pistay.
In its fifth year, Race to Alaska is a competition for engine-less boats and requires zero prearranged support. For the first stage of the race, the groups have to get to Victoria, British Columbia, within 36 hours in order to qualify. Only 37 of the original 50 groups made it to the second and final stage of the race. For the second stage, participants must go through Seymour Narrows tidal rapids, about midway up Vancouver Island, towards Bella Bella, a coastal town in British Columbia about halfway through the race course. After that, it’s anyone’s game.
Jake Beattie is co-creator and executive director of the nonprofit that runs Race to Alaska. According to Beattie, an average of 50% of the teams that start the race actually finish, due to the difficulties of sailing.
Team Angry Beaver’s Alan Johnson said their three biggest challenges were the pedal drive, cooking food and having energy to power the canting keel.
“We had to stop and back down somewhere in, like, the north end of Vancouver Island when there were tons of logs in the Queen Charlotte Strait. We had to just keep dodging around,” Johnson said.
All the team members have been sailing for years — one of them since he was 3 years old. After sleeping only two hours a night for the past four days, Pistay said they were excited to finish first.
“We were going to put up a kite, but we decided not to. We decided to crack a beer — our last five beers that we had on board — and enjoy the moment,” Pistay said.
The Angry Beaver’s crew will share a $10,000 prize. The second place team will win a set of steak knives.