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Photo by Lois Munch.
You cannot even see the bow of the boat. Jeanne and her team of seven women sailors are competing in the Race to Alaska. Their team is called "Sail Like a Girl. The whole team is exhausted and on edge in the dark. A GPS unit has failed. There are rocks out there, but where? Jeanne woke up to help figure that out and calm her crew. And that is your island.
It is your safety. It's your entire world.
And, in that moment of hitting something as hard as we hit it, I knew that that boat might not be able to carry us anymore. Jeanne and her crew were still miles from their destination: Ketchikan, Alaska. The Race to Alaska is not for the faint of heart.
All boats are welcome. The only rule: the boat must be human or wind powered.
Everything else — course, vessel, crew — is up for grabs. For second, it's a set of steak knives.
Third gets you nothing. Jeanne is an experienced sailor and captain. She wanted the challenge. She also wanted to test the idea that the most competent sailors are men. The plan came together, as many good things do And at the yacht club party, as is pretty typical, the guys are all puffing up their chests and talking about their warrior moments on sailboats, and it's hard to even be part of those conversations.
And I was particularly frustrated that weekend at, just, the masculinity in our sport. So, Anna asked me, 'Would you ever do the Race to Alaska with an all-women's crew? She found a used foot boat in Dana Point, California. They christened her "Maks to the Moon.
It's super fast and it has a big open transom. So I knew we could put bikes on it. The bikes are for when there is no wind. Remember: the race is miles, wind and human power alone. The newly formed Sail Like a Girl team spent weekends taking the boat apart — upgrading and repairing all the equipment on board.
Their boat is a daysailer, meant for short, single-day races. No head. No galley. They had to come up with a plan for the cooking, sleeping and the potty. The ladies bonded during these long boat building sessions. When they were ready to hit the water, they sailed together twice a week for training. After about three months, they were ready.
The boat was packed to the brim with gear, food, water, 1 and 2 buckets and a ton of sails. It was time for the race. The anticipation of that one moment is huge, because you don't know what happens next. But the start was quiet. The women were on course and biking their way to Ketchikan.
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Cell service was spotty. They were surrounded by the beauty of the coast and unconcerned with the outside world. All that mattered was the boat, the ocean, their teammates and the race. Then they got to the Bella Bella, a waypoint in the competition. There, they got an update. They were in the lead.
Also, they got cell service. We were doing this for other people. And the stress landed on our he like a ton of bricks. For the first and only time onboard the boat, our team dynamic broke. Sailing away from Bella Bella, tempers were short.
The women retreated to the corners of the boat. Conversations were snippy. Everyone was complaining about their job on the boat, and unsure what to do. To sail the boat properly the women had to come back together. They had to work as a team.
And she said, 'OK, everybody close your eyes, except for Haley, who's driving. And so the entire dynamic of the boat is now back to this positive, happy place. And my head hits the pillow, and I heard the best word that possibly could have happened in that moment. It was Kelly yelling, 'Orcas! It's just magic," Jeanne says.
Led by the orcas, and back in synch with each other and the wind, Team Sail Like a Girl was still in the lead. There were a lot of challenges ahead, and the women were ready to face them.
Then, sailing through that inky, dark Alaska night at 2 a. Jeanne woke up and came out on deck. We were going probably eight knots, seven to eight knots of boat speed. And we came to a dead stop. How did we run aground?
Ketchikan women remember life in the s
There are no rocks here. There's over feet of water. Jeanne guessed the log was 20 feet long, and they were sitting on it in the middle of the open water. And the log popped up and floated away," Jeanne says. We knew that there was not really help anywhere close, and it's part of the race.
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You have to be able to help yourself. You have to be able to save yourself out there. They sat, sails down until the sun came up. The boat was immobilized for hours. Any chance at winning seemed gone. In the morning, the team raced on, monitoring their injured boat. They were still pushing as hard as they could to get to the finish line.
Which, after another two days of sailing, was in sight. About 20 miles from the finish, they got cell service and discovered they were in the lead.