20-Feet or Under: The Small Boats of R2AK

by · June 28, 2016

A closer look at a few of the 20-foot and under boats in the Race to Alaska. All of these boats will be eligible for the Small Craft Advisor “Side Bet,” a $1,000 cash prize and their boat on the cover of our magazine.


Team Shadowfax
Boat: Hobie 16
Designer: Hobie Alter
Length: 16′ 7″
Weight: 320 lb
Sail Area: 218 sq ft

Pros: Speed. Good in light air. Thoroughly proven design.

Cons: Exposure. Lack of accommodations or protection from elements. Athletic boat requires hiking out. No standard auxiliary propulsion system.


Team Vantucky
Boat: Windrider 17
Designer: Jim Brown
Length: 17′ 4″
Weight: 320 lb
Sail Area: 139 sq ft

Pros: Quite fast—especially off the wind. Very difficult to capsize. Offers some protection as crew sits inside center hull.

Cons: No standard auxiliary propulsion system—Team Vantucky has adapted a rowing system. Doesn’t point especially well and the loaded-up open cockpit can be vulnerable to flooding in rough going.


Team Angus Rowboats
Boat: RowCruiser (Sailing Model) from plywood kit
Designer: Colin Angus
Length: 18′ 8.5″
Weight: 148 pounds (rowing version)
Sail area: 70 sq ft

Pros: Versatility. A strong, sliding seat rowboat that is also quite fast under sail. The most unusual feature—especially significant for R2AK—is her enclosed cabin with a 6’6″ berth, allowing her skipper to sleep aboard anchored out.

Cons: Low on the water and fairly exposed. Not as canvassed-up as some faster beach cats and tris.


Team Bunny Whaler
Boat: Boston Whaler Harpoon 5.2
Length: 17′
Weight: 565 lb
Sail Area: 160 sq ft plus optional 150 sq ft spinnaker

Pros: Unsinkable foam-sandwich construction. Stable. Venturi-style bailers for self-draining cockpit. Roomy cockpit and a stowage cuddy that offers dry storage and some protection from wind and spray.

Cons: Not an ideal rowboat. No designated sleeping berths. Moderate speed potential.


Team Nordica
Boat: Nordica 16
Length: 16′
Weight: 925 lb
Sail Area: 130 sq ft

Pros: Self-righting keel boat can handle rough seas. Small sleeping cabin.

Cons: Heavy to row. Cockpit is small for two crew and isn’t self-draining. Relatively slow under sail.


Team Can’t Anchor Us
Boat: Swampscott Dory (Custom)
Length: 17′
Weight: ?
Sail Area: 115 sq ft

Pros: Custom Swampscott Dory has been decked over and had a cabin added. Proven already as it finished the first and very rough R2AK. Designed with a custom sliding-seat rowing setup. Cabin offers dry bunk and protection from elements. Lots of flotation added.

Cons: Not very fast. Fairly low initial stability.


Team Squamish
Boat: Young 6M (plywood plans)
Designer: Jim Young
Length: 19′ 8″
Weight: 1153 lb
Sail Area: 229 sq ft

Pros: Cockpit and cabin comforts are palatial by comparison to most of the smaller fleet in R2AK. Stable, water-ballasted boat with dry bunks and accommodations. Swinging centerboard allows for shallow draft.

Cons: Heavy to row, but water ballast can theoretically be dumped to lighten load. Less manageable/beachable than smaller boats.


Team Excellent Adventure
Boat: Montgomery 17
Designer: Jerry Montgomery
Length: 17′ 2″
Weight: 1600 lb
Sail Area: 154 sq ft

Pros: Seaworthy design proven in last year’s R2AK. Shoal fixed ballast for stability. Fast and weatherly for a monohull its size. Deep self-draining cockpit and cabin provide dry accommodations and stowage.

Cons: Beamy and heavy—far from an ideal rowboat. Fixed shoal keel makes her hard to beach.


Team Heart of Gold
Boat: King’s Unlimited Carbon Fiber Stand-Up Paddle Board
Length: 19′
Weight: 27 pounds

Pros: Easily managed. Easy to propel under paddle.

Cons: Exposure. Exposure. Exposure. Lack of stowage capacity or provisions. Oh, and it needs to be stand-up paddled for 750 miles.


Team Sea Runner
Boat: Seascape 18
Length: 18′
Weight: 275 lb
Sail Area: 75 sq ft plus 115 sq ft gennaker.

Pros: very high speed potential performance design. Shallow draft with centerboard up. Small but enclosed cabin for stowage and V-berth. Added custom pedal drive system.

Cons: Not designed for distance cruising. Performance elements like twin rudders could be vulnerable in these conditions.


Team Why Not
Boat: Cal 20
Designer: C. William Lapworth
Length: 20′
Weight: 1950 lb
Sail Area: 195 sq ft

Pros: Safe, seaworthy fin-keeler that has been used for ocean crossings. Relatively comfortable cabin and accommodations.

Cons: Fixed draft of over 3 feet means she has to keep to deeper water. Not easy to propel under human power.


Team Coastal Express
Boat: Mirror 16
Length: 16′
Weight: 260 lb
Sail Area: 178 sq ft

Pros: Stable dinghy with small cuddy area forward for dry stowage. Easier to row than many of the monohulls in the R2AK. Beachable (draws only 6 inches board up).

Cons: Light boats offer a bouncy ride in rougher water. Not a lot of protection from weather.


Team Liteboat
Boat: Liteboat custom
Length: Around 18 feet
Weight: ?
Sail Area: ?

Pros: This sailing Liteboat prototype was built on a performance rowing chassis, so should be good under oar power. The trimaran sailing figuration makes her very stable under sail. The boat has multiple watertight stowage lockers. Low windage.

Cons: Versatile, but favors rowing over sailing performance. Close to water and exposed.

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  1. […] $1k side bet sponsor, Small Craft Advisor Magazine, published a great blog post summarizing the 16 competing boats, including photos.  Here is a list of all the teams with boats registered for the full race that are less than or […]

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