Monthly: June 2015

24 Jun


Roger Mann on his R2AK Experience


Below is an excerpt from our interview with the indomitable Roger Mann—the first place solo Race to Alaska finisher who completed the adverse 750 mile course pedaling and sailing his Hobie Adventure Island sailing kayak.


Roger on transiting Seymour Narrows: “Heard that Team Un-Cruise did it at night, so took one last quick nap and headed out after midnight. Took much longer than I expected to get into the Narrows, so I hit it late and when I did it there was at least 20 knots on the nose, which caused severe conditions—worst that I had seen yet. I didn’t carry much sail into it, but used the current, staying in the middle and just rafting along, but the waves were so close together I ended up missing getting lined up for one big one with the pedal drive and ended up getting washed off the boat. I had my surfboard leash on and quickly got back aboard, climbing over and bending my tiller steering rods. I looked for a place to hide out but nothing came up until early in the morning about the time the tide was changing. I found a nice island to get behind and tied up to bull kelp.”

On pithchpoling at Cape Caution: “As I reached the Cape it was around 10 pm, dark, and swells were around 20 feet—I was not making progress very well. I reefed, lined up for a beach landing and went for the middle which I knew was clear, but the surf was just too big for the 16 foot boat and I planted the nose and the boat flipped over forward with the right ama hitting the ground, sheering the breakaway bolt and then folding back as the mast hit the sand and the wave crashed everything onto the beach.

“Everything that I had Johnstone had taken away.”

“My feet were working the pedals trying to keep the speed, so when we hit, one leg of the drive system broke off as I got thrown from the boat. I stood up in chest deep water and grabbed the mast and pulled it up and the boat popped back upright with the right ama folded as another wave crashed down. I had a large bag on the back storage area and many things attached to the hiking benches. The bag and right bench had gotten washed off and waves continued to crash and push us in. I noticed I had trouble moving and thought that it was undertow. Instead it was that I had left my fly zipper open on my drysuit and my legs had filled with water. I was pinned to the beach and couldn’t pull myself up and out of the water, so I got my knife and slit open the feet which let the water out and I was able to get up and drag the boat out of the surf…

“I took care of getting out of the wet clothes and warmed myself and felt Like I was now out of danger, and then started seeing how bad it was going to end up being. I was thinking the worst, and that the akas may be bent and I may need to call for rescue. But as I assessed the boat I did not find any major damage. I had replacement breakaway bolts so that was going to be okay, but I was missing a lot of stuff—mainly the Hobie seat. It was just plain gone. Plus the anchor and many other items.”

On one of many trip highlights: “My last night on the water. I had pushed very hard, was hallucinating bad, was pretty much lost although I knew about where I was, and just plain beat down, so I tied up to some kelp around 2 am to get some sleep. I was awakened by the snort of a huge whale only about 50 feet away. As I awoke his back slid slowly through the water with his tail coming way up and out of the water. It was huge—had to be as wide as an airplane’s wing—maybe 30 feet or so. It was foggy, misty, very calm and very cool and pretty magical. Just amazing.”

On surviving the straits: “Everything that I had Johnstone had taken away…I had a major personal moment with myself. I was very proud that I had made it in those conditions and having had so many things taken from me. I felt like I was broken down and reborn as a new stronger person that had confidence to take on big challenges and overcome them. It was a life changing moment for me. I am not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears of joy. It was very tough and challenging and I am very glad that it was, because it allowed me to learn a lot about myself.”

The complete interview and an R2AK recap article will appear in the next issue of Small Craft Advisor.—Eds

Filed Under: Uncategorized

15 Jun

1 Comment

More Boats of the R2AK


Here’s a list as some additional boats of the R2AK

Team Grin
Etchells 22
Length: 30′ 6″
Beam: 6′ 11″
Draft: 4′ 6″
Weight: 3700 lb
Sail Area: 310 sq ft


This classic international one-design keelboat racer was designed in 1966. This sleek, fast, seaworthy sloop is typically sailed by 3 or 4 crew and is known for excellent pointing and light air abilities. Its top speed is around 10 knots. Not typically used for distance cruising, accommodations are spartan—although in the R2AK that’s a relative term. You can spot the E22 easily by its long, graceful overhangs, as although it is over 30 feet long, the actual waterline length is only 22 feet.

Team Blackfish
F-27 Catamaran (Farrier Marine)
Length: 27′ 1″
Beam: 19′ 1″
Draft: 1′ 2″/ 4′ 11″
Weight: 2600 lb
Sail Area: 446 ft


This modern classic was put into full production by Corsair back in the 1980s and went on to become hugely popular. Corsair sold over a hundred of these boats in 1991 alone. The F-27 has won countless races and successfully crossed oceans. In the 1993 Miami to Key Largo race an F-27 averaged 18.2 knots over the 43 mile course. The cabin sleeps 2-3 adults and the same number of children in addition.

Team Mau
Nacra 570
Length: 19′ 6″
Beam: 8′ 2″
Draft: 10″
Weight: 360 lb
Sail Area: 225 sq ft


The fast Nacra is a austere choice for a race like the R2AK. The 570 is very light, doesn’t like to carry a lot of additional weight, and offers no amenities or protection from the elements. With skeg hulls, the Nacra doesn’t need daggerboards or additional lateral resistance, keeping her draft exceptionally shallow. The boat is rigged with a double trapeze so that both crew can hike out to offset the powerful rig.

Team Barefoot Wooden Boats
Custom Tad Roberts Design
Length: 19′
Beam: 6′ 5″
Draft: 6″ board up
Weight: 500 lb
Sail area: 287 sq ft


One of several boats built specifically for R2AK, Team Barefoot’s boat was designed by B.C. designer and Shipyard Raid founder Tad Roberts. Designed as a planing monohull, the boat was also kept narrow for good rowing performance. Instead of a conventional centerboard or keel, the Barefoot boat employs a pair of offset daggerboards located just inside the gunwhales. Essentially she’s is a big open dinghy, meaning she requires more attention to sail safely but offers exceptional performance potential. The boat also features a bowsprit for flying the spinnaker and a pair of sliding-seat rowing stations—one for each oar, port and starboard.

Team Excellent Adventure
Montgomery 17
Length: 17′ 2″
Beam: 7′ 4″
Draft: 1′ 9″ / 3′
Weight: 1600 lb
Sail area: 154 sq ft


A classic mini cruiser, the Lyle Hess designed (with Jerry Montgomery) Montgomery 17 sloop features a masthead rig and shallow fixed keel/centerboard combo. The 17’s cockpit is spacious and there are typically 2-3 berths and an optional minimal galley unit below. Fast for a small trailersailer, the Monty has been known to hold its own with 22 and 23 footers. While not nearly as fast as the beach cats in R2AK, the 17 can carry provisions and gear easily, and her cabin offers protection from spray and a dry place to sleep. You can spot the Monty by its simulated lap strake hull.

Team Mike’s Kayak
Prijon Kodiak Kayak
Length: 17′
Beam: 23.3 inches
Weight: 62 Lb


Sitting down in his 17-foot Prijon Kodiak kayak, Mike is arguably the most the most exposed of all racers. His particular boat is said to be designed with speed and carrying capacity in mind–a touring boat that tracks well and swallows a lot of gear (weight capacity 331 pounds).

Team Coastal Express
Length: 16′
Beam: 6′
Draft: 6″
Weight: 260 lb
Sail area: 178 sq ft


Designed for the Daily Mirror newspaper in 1963, this plywood kit boat 16-footer was based on the very popular 11-foot Mirror Dinghy. The Mirror 16 was popular with racers but also with sailors who wanted to potter around and camp cruise. Like the smaller Mirror, the 16 sports distinctive red sails.

Team John
Easy rider Kayak with outrigger and sail
Length: 17′
Beam: 24.25 ”
Weight: 52 lb


John’s kayak is equipped with a single outrigger, adding stability. The main kayak hull was designed to be a forgiving ocean boat, tracking well and slicing through waves.

Team Boatyard Boys
Swampscott Dory (decked)
Length: 17′


We don’t know a lot about the Boatyard Boys’ boat–apparently they found the derelict Swampscott Dory left for dead in the weeds and blackberry bushes. Where an open dory would be vulnerable to swamping, the Boys built in flotation by decking the boat over completely, creating a tiny cabin, and they installed a sliding rowing seat. The boat is also equipped with a small, low-aspect sailing rig.

Team Sea Runner
Hitia 17 catamaran
Length: 17
Beam: 10′ 1″
Draft: 11″
Weight: 295 lb
Sail area: 160


We think Team Sea Runner is sailing a home-built James Wharram designed Hitia 17 catamaran. Designed as a beach catamaran, the Hitia is also frequently used as a cruiser or coastal trekker. There is no cabin, but the boat is seaworthy and offers dry stowage in hulls. The deck makes a good base for a two-man dome tent.

Team Puffin
Tiki 21 catamaran
Length: 21
Beam: 12′
Draft: 1′ 2″
Weight: 790 lb
Sail area: 208


We believe team Puffin is sailimg a James Wharram designed Tiki 21. These are Polynesian-inspired home-built catamarans designed for cruising. Although very simplistic, Tiki 21 hulls offer a bunk out of the weather and are known to be very seaworthy. In fact a Tiki 21 was the smallest multihull to sail around the world.

14 Jun


Escaping the Straits


Up until yesterday it appeared Mother Nature’s anemometer was broken with the switch stuck on force 7. Winds continued gusting to 35 knots in Johnstone Strait through Friday.

With R2AK-winners Team Elsie Piddock tied to a dock in Ketchikan, three boats have now cleared the Bella Bella checkpoint behind them, but most teams are still working to break free of the straits. This narrow stretch was intended to be a filter of sorts, but who would’ve thought getting through would be the nearly sisyphean task it’s been.

Just how bad was the weather? The experienced sergeant aboard the Royal Canadian Mounted Police vessel that helped assist the dismasted Team Broderna said he had never encountered such severe conditions.

Some of the Boats of R2AK

Few if any boat races have had such as diverse assortment of vessels competing. Below is a quick guide to the front seven so far. (Photos by Debra Colvin)

Team Elsie Piddock
F-25C Trimaran (Farrier Marine)
Length: 26’ 11”
Beam: 19’
Draft: 10” / 4’ 5”
Sail Area: 440 sq ft
Empty Weight: 1760 lb


With a PHRF rating of -20, the F-25C is an ultra high performance trailerable multihull and possibly the fastest production cabin multihull of its size. It’s a kit boat built from high tech materials (vacuum-bagged epoxy carbon fiber composite and balsa coring) to achieve extreme light weight. The mast is a carbon fiber rotating wing section and a freestanding bow pole is used to fly an asymmetric spinnaker and screacher. Farrier Marine says the F-25C “enjoys quite a reputation as a ‘giant killer’ on the race course,” and that although it was originally thought of as a light air boat, “some of the F-25C’s most impressive wins have come under trying conditions…” Chalk up one more!

Team Por Favor
Hobie 33
Length: 33’
Beam: 8’
Draft: 5.5’
Displacement: 4,000 lb
Sail Area: 429 sq ft


A highly competitive one-design and PHRF racer, the 33 is based on the ULDB (Ultra Light Displacement Boat) concept. With its sleek, narrow hull, the Hobie 33 is known especially for its performance off the wind, capable of reaching speeds of 15 knots or more. It also tends to excel at the extremes—very light and very strong air. Not considered particularly comfortable (only 48” of headroom) they have proven remarkably seaworthy. One wonders how well Team Por Favor would have done if they’d seen any downwind sailing in the R2AK.

Team MOB Mentality
F-85SR Super Racer
Length: 27’ 10”
Beam: 19’ 9”
Draft: 11’4” / 6.2’
Empty Weight: 1400-1800 lb
Sail Area 516 sq ft


The original F-82 was designed in part to meet a particular racing rule that limits rig size, and the F-82SR is an even more race optimized version with lower cabin and taller rig. Remarkably the F-85SR can include as many as 5 berths and the boat is easily trailerable. With its powerful sail plan this boat was intended for experienced sailors only.

Team Kohara
Warrior 29 Catamaran
Length: 29’
Beam: 16’
Draft: 1’/ 3.33’
Empty Weight: 2000 lb
Sail Area: 400 sq ft


Originally built beginning in 1976, only 17 Warrior Cats were ever completed. The hulls were constructed of Airex/fiberglass and connected with aluminum crossbeams. Sleek, seaworthy and quite fast, the Warrior 29s’ hulls each have an 11’ 3” bunk and room for a galley and head. Riding low in the stern, they apparently sometimes struggle beating into a choppy sea. Team Kohara have already rightly been receiving kudos for their performance thus far in this older design.

Team Un-Cruise
F-25C Trimaran (Farrier Marine)
Length: 26’ 11”
Beam: 19’
Draft: 10” / 4’ 5”
Sail Area: 440 sq ft
Empty Weight: 1760 lb


Photo from R2AK website

(Edited correction, Un-Cruise was on F-25c, like Elsie Piddock) With a PHRF rating of -20, the F-25C is an ultra high performance trailerable multihull and possibly the fastest production cabin multihull of its size. It’s a kit boat built from high tech materials (vacuum-bagged epoxy carbon fiber composite and balsa coring) to achieve extreme light weight. The mast is a carbon fiber rotating wing section and a freestanding bow pole is used to fly an asymmetric spinnaker and screacher. Farrier Marine says the F-25C “enjoys quite a reputation as a ‘giant killer’ on the race course,” and that although it was originally thought of as a light air boat, “some of the F-25C’s most impressive wins have come under trying conditions…”

Team FreeBurd
ARC 22 Catamaran (Aquarius Sail)
Length: 22’
Beam: 12’
Draft: 2’ / 4’
Empty Weight: 415 lb
Sail Area: 380 sq ft


A high-performance catamaran designed to be the ultimate beach cat, the ARC 22 features advanced construction materials and techniques (vacuum bagging, epoxy resin, carbon fiber, etc.) Simple and Spartan, the ARC looks more or less like a typical trampoline beach cat. The ultra-light 22 is capable of 20 knot speeds and flying a hull for miles on end, but 420 pound boat needs to be actively sailed by crew and offers no accommodations nor any place to duck out of the weather. We’re mighty impressed with the performance of all of the beach cat sailors in this race—they have already endured an amazing amount of abuse.

Team Soggy Beavers
OC-6 Outrigger Canoe
Length: 42’
Weight: 450 lb
Modified with two Hobie Cat sail rigs


Probably the most unusual boat left in the R2AK, the Beav’s OC-6 is propelled by six paddlers or sailed in anything but a stiff headwind. Unfortunately for the Beavers, that’s about all they’ve seen. Most OC-6 boats are considered quite seaworthy and many have crossed challenging bodies of water in formidable conditions. The boat has no bunks, head, or amenities. Resting crew will recline in one of the rowing stations or on a tramp. The Beavers have shown incredible endurance already, paddling into a brutal headwind for several days. How would they have done if predominate conditions were closer to those on June 7th when they rushed out to a lead leaving Victoria?

Team Discovery
Hobie Mirage Adventure Island
Length: 16’ 7”
Beam: 9’ 6”
Weight: 142 lb
Sail Area: 65 sq ft
Auxiliary Propulsion: Mirage Pedal Drive


It’s amazing to consider the 7th place “team” is a solo sailor on a 142 lb sailboat. Roger Mann’s Hobie Adventure Island is a proven trimaran sailing kayak, just big enough to accommodate expedition stowage and sleeping. While conditions have favored bigger, heavier boats, Roger has appeared to use his manageable little Hobie to advantage, sailing or pedaling in back eddies near shore, easily adjusting sail area to match conditions, and beaching when necessary.

Filed Under: Uncategorized

11 Jun


Strait Up Windy


Debra Photo by Debra Colvin

Well, we can say this much—the weather in Haro and Johnstone Strait has been anything but fickle. Each and every day has offered up another gale warning. Yesterday the Fanny Island buoy in Johnstone Strait was showing gusts to 35 knots, and it’s blowing 20 now.

What does that mean for racers? Big, nasty waves and a malevolent wind trying to break their boat. As a result they are forced to bite off small chunks of distance or sit tight and wait for saner conditions.

Of the few restless teams who did venture out, several were punished for their insolence. Broderna had their mast snapped in two, and the Team Superfriends San Juan 21 had its bow opened up. Both teams are safe but have withdrawn.

Of course nothing, it would seem, can stop leaders Team Elsie Piddock, who continue to claw their way up the coast closing in on the finish line.

Team Hexagram, who’ve been valiantly pressing on in their thrice-repaired Hobie 20 beach cat, managed to make it through Seymour Narrows yesterday, but nearly capsized with one of the team ending up in the water. They were also forced to battle an onboard stove fire at another point. The supposedly reliable maxim that, “your boat can take more weather than you can,” might need to be retired once and for all, as many of the R2AK crews are literally dragging their reluctant, broken boats toward the finish.

There has been a lot of talk about the conditions in the Straits. We asked a couple of experienced sailors and paddlers whether they were surprised.

Adventurer Colin Angus wrote: “Conditions this year are not typical. While the Johnstone Strait often has stiff northerlies, generally the Georgia Strait is much calmer.  During my training three years ago for my Vancouver Island circumnavigation I was out in the open waters of the Georgia Strait (out from Comox) three days a week through the months of May and June, and not once did I experience northerlies as strong as what the racers are currently experiencing.

“During my oar-powered circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, conditions were glassy, without a breath of wind, from Victoria to Comox (not too far from Seymour narrows), and I covered the distance easily with 20 hours of rowing. When Russell Henry broke my human powered speed record of Vancouver Island, he covered this same stretch at an even faster speed. I don’t know exactly how long it has taken Russell Henry’s six man crew to cover the same distance this time, but I believe it is has been more than 50 hours at the paddle.”

Small-boat cruiser and designer Scot Domergue was less surprised by the wind, but impressed by its unrelenting consistency.

“From everything I’ve seen, pictures, videos, reports, etc., the wind has been strong and conditions rough, but not beyond what I would consider well within the range of possible expectation.  These are definitely challenging conditions, especially lasting as long as they have and for small boats in a very long race! Still, Roger Mann in his little Hobie Adventure Island has managed it quite well,” he wrote.

“I don’t know that conditions in the Strait of Georgia have been much, if any, worse than I experienced and managed fine a couple of summers ago on the Marsh Duck. And even today I think they’re only a little worse in Johnstone Strait than what was happening at times when I was there.  The big difference is that these conditions may be more continuous, not getting significantly worse in the afternoon and then being far more reasonable the next morning. And that makes it tough.”

Yacht designer Tad Roberts says this kind of weather could be anticipated.

“The actual weather should come as no surprise; it’s pretty typical. Most were betting on lighter wind, and we’ll see some of that yet. But the heavy windward work in the Johnstone Straits is entirely expected. Around the time the race was announced I predicted the Johnstone Strait would be the most difficult gate. I still believe that,” he says. “Elsie Piddock played it perfectly, some of her followers are having a tougher time.”

On the R2AK in general, Tad said it reminds him another race.

“So far the R2AK reminds me of the early OSTAR days, when all sorts of crazy looking contraptions would show up. Tuesday we had 4-5 of the smallest/slowest boats sheltering here in Silva Bay. Super Friends, Dick Smiley, Boatyard Boys, Excellent Adventure, and Coastal Express were all here. You could not find any more disparate group in any marina. With few rules or requirements the R2AK offers considerable room for individual expression, which for me is the most interesting aspect of the race.”