Six men are about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.
For a couple of testing and trying weeks in June, Victoria brothers Graham and Russell Henry, along with Tanner Ockenden, Nik Rampen, Ryan Schissler and Mackenzie Punter, will be rowing in a 1,100-kilometre race from Victoria to Alaska.
The Race to Alaska, the first-ever longest human- and wind-powered race in North America, is a competition in which participants make their way in any type of non-motorized boat from Victoria to Ketchikan, Alaska. The only supplies they can use are the ones they can fit in the boat and no outside help is allowed.
In its inaugural year, 38 teams will be competing for the chance to win $10,000.
The local team, who have dubbed themselves the Soggy Beavers, will set out on a six-man 44-foot long, 340 pound outrigger canoe, outfitted with a sailing rig.
“It’s bigger, it’s faster, it’s more sea-worthy. Polynesians crossed oceans in these things, so we figured it would be a good thing to run up to Alaska,” said Graham Henry. “Because we’re doing it differently, it gives us an advantage if the weather is right for us. There are lots of catamarans that are fighting against each other and have almost the same set of gear, we’re in a very different boat.”
Their plan is to row non-stop for six or seven days, taking turns sleeping in a coffin-style position wedged between the seats, living in their dry-suits for the duration of the trip and eating dehydrated fruits and energy bars.
The Henry brothers have experience on longer expeditions, having kayaked 6,500 kilometres from Brazil to Florida in 2013.
“This race is quite different in that it’s not just me or us on the trip,” said Russell.
But for the other four paddlers, it will be a relatively new experience.
“This was an opportunity to slingshot myself back into a more transient, simple adventurous lifestyle, which is where I find myself feeling most fulfilled,” said Ockenden, who went to school with Rampen and Russell.
In preparation for the race, they have been training every day rowing in the Inner Harbour.
But sailing on open water comes with its own set of challenges.
The group said managing sleep, unpredictable weather conditions, and the physical exertion pose the biggest challenges.
“It’s going to be about creative problem-solving and just suffering through it,” said Graham.
“It’s not often that you get to see the entire Canadian West Coast in a week, especially via such a pure form of transportation,” added Rampen.
The team has set up a Go Fund Me page called Canoe to Ketchikan and half of every dollar donated will be given to the Vancouver-based Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation, an organization they are all closely connected with.
The race starts on Sunday, June 7 at noon at the Inner Harbour.