From left, Becky McCleery and Keanna Rink enjoy sunny skies on their way to Alaska. (Contributed photo)

Wild Ones sail to Alaska

South Surrey resident endured high winds to get to northern state

Using only the gusting wind and a paddle, it took Keanna Rink and her team seven consecutive days to sail 750 nautical miles (1,389 kilometres) from Port Townsend, Wash. to Ketchikan, AK.

A challenge on its own, it was amplified by the fact that the crew was banned from using any type of motorized support.

Of the 58 teams that registered for the 2017 Race to Alaska – which left Port Townsend on June 8 – only 27 completed the race.

“It was an awesome adventure,” said Rink, who learned how to sail in Crescent Beach.

“A lot of sailboats are in it, but it’s not a sailboat race. It’s for any boat that can basically make itself move through human power that can do the race… So there was paddlers, kayakers, paddle-boarders and sailboats.”

Rink’s team, ‘West Coast Wild Ones,’ made of skipper Ben Biswell, Becky McCleery, Chantelle Boudrou, and Rink, finished with a time of seven days, 17 hours and 22 minutes.

Leading the pack was Pure & Wild Freeburd; the three-man crew finished with a time of four days, three hours and five minutes. Freeburd used a 28-foot Trimaran, while West Coast Wild Ones – the first to finish in a mono hull boat – raced in Ben’s 27 O’Day.

“The most challenging part for our team was going non-stop. You’re not stopping anywhere, not getting off the boat. So constantly being on the water, constantly moving. Not being able to go for a walk or anything, you’re always on the boat. Physically draining, you’re tired and you keep going,” Rink said.

Rink said the crew would rotate sleeping and sailing shifts. She said it wasn’t too difficult to fall asleep, but that task also had its challenges.

“You’re pretty tired so you just close your eyes and sleep, even if the boat is totally on its side or whatever. Sometimes it’s hard to sleep, especially in some areas where we knew there was going to be heavy weather during the night. Just anticipating it and waiting, you can’t really sleep because you’re worried about it, you’re thinking about hitting rocks. You’re always thinking about something.”

While they had spouts of gusty winds, Rink described the first day of the event as the most difficult.

It’s called the proving grounds, and before teams are eligible for the Victoria-to-Alaska leg, they must complete a Townsend-to-Victoria leg.

“That was the windiest day of the whole trip and that was the first day. A lot of boats didn’t make it, a lot of boats had to call maydays, it was a gong-show. The coast guard had to go rescue people. That day was probably the heaviest weather, we had 35 gusting to 40 knots, which is really heavy wind.”

On the calmer days, the crew rigged a plank that hung off the stern of the sailboat. Taking turns, each crew member would sit on the costume plank and paddle the 27-foot boat.

Rink, who grew up in Ocean Park, now lives in Horseshoe Bay and owns a sailboat adventuring company, Venture BC. While in high school she started teaching sailing for the Surrey Sailing Club.

For more information on Race to Alaska, click here.

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From left, Chantelle Boudrou, Ben Biswell, Keanna Rink and Becky McCleery sailed to Alaska from Washington. (Contributed photo)

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