The adventure alternative.

In some thread posts that i am working on right now i am beginning to talk about individual boats and some boat types that i am taking or have taken an interest in. A good example at the moment is the Exe-boats thread where i just went out and took pictures of anything that caught my eye, many of those boats are types that i could have considered for my current voyage project.  Alongside actual boats i am starting to post more about voyages and events that have inspired me in the past and ones that i am excited about today .  Readers can see that racing played a big part in my sailing past and it was the Whitbread race that was my great ambition : but there were others.  At one time i really wanted to put together a minimal ‘OSTAR’ boat (Observer singlehanded transatlantic race) but at the time my own sailing competence was just about getting there i neither had the boat or the budget to put one together and the race itself was rapidly going out of the average offshore sailors reach.  Long gone were the days of modified Folkboats ,Wharram’s and  Rival’s ploughing across the Atlantic.

For a very brief time  slot a mini-Transat with a secondhand boat might just have been viable but it seemed pointless to do it unless i could run with an even slightly competitive boat.     Of greater interest was the excellent ‘Jester’ challenge , named for the modified , junk rigged Folkboat of the same name.  My project boat for that was to have been the Deben but i disliked that boat so much so soon after buying it that i quickly sold it on and never started the rebuild.  At some point i realised that weeks and weeks at sea racing in the cold north atlantic in a small, slow cruising boat wasn’t what i wanted to do, rather that the kind of thing i was looking for was something much more like the Everglades Challenge or the ‘Race to Alaska’.   Its those things that i want to talk about today and with the serious proposal to make the attempt to set up something similar in European waters.

I’m going to assume that most readers won’t have heard of either the Everglades Challenge or the ‘Race to Alaska’ so the centre of this post will be aimed at giving you a quick overview of both events.  The title picture by the way is of my own failed first attempt to get a boat to the start line of the Everglades challenge.  The boat itself was an old Osprey racing dinghy that was sadly beyond my skill to rebuild but luckliy not a massively expensive error either.

The Everglades Challenge.

The Everglades challenge is one of a series of small-craft adventure races held in the US and run by the ‘Watertribe’.  Very briefly the boats can be anything from sea-going canoes and kayaks, dinghy’s and small monohulls and right up to small multihulls. The key requirement is that the boats have to launch off a beach from above the high water mark and then race independently via a series of check-points either through the intracoastal waterway or along the Florida coast over a distance of 300 miles. The race is held once a year around late January.  There are plenty of youtube video’s to chose from : this one i think captures the event most clearly.

The Race to Alaska.

At the opposite corner of the US seaboard : extreme north-west rather than far south-east and also once a year is a small craft race starting in Port Townsend and finishing in Ketchikan (Alaska)…… a sailing distance of 700 miles through very challenging waters and once again sailed and paddled/rowed in a huge variety of again modified craft. The race element is usually won by a powerful multihull although in this case the boats can be bigger as they don’t have to be beach-launched.    Well worth a watch is the entire Race to Alaska video series : i will embed just a couple of the more entertaining ones here but first a news clip style story.

To bring this down to the personal, ie what kind of craft would i now consider for either event take a look at this clip from the RTA series.  The boat is the sailing version of the ‘Row-cruiser’ design, looking at the study plans its just about within my level of competency to build assuming that i could get the panels cut professionally.   I could just about create the space at home to build one of these.  The physical challenge would be to train myself and stabilise my back enough to row for long periods.   At the end of the post i will embed a link to their home page.

The English Adventure alternative.

Its quite clear that we don’t have anything like the 2 events here, ok i know we have the ‘Raid’ events and i am sure that they are fine and enjoyable small craft rally’s but they are nothing like either the Everglades Challenge or the Race to Alaska.   What i am thinking of right now is creating a similar challenge event right here in UK waters.  Now i can almost instantly here the ‘but-buts’ : so ok our conditions are nothing like Florida but they are or can be a bit like Alaska and the same or similar boats race in either event.   I can also imagine readers recoiling from the idea of the tough and difficult small craft events like these, its not exactly everyones cup of tea….it is mine though.   I know that i am a a stage of life where i am looking for another big adventure : at just under 60 i am finally experienced enough to contemplate something like this and still seem to have the potential to be fit enough given my experience this year in my fitness efforts.

To give a clear idea of what it is i propose so that readers can then either pull it apart or cheer it on here is what i want to do.

1.Create a small craft adventure group modelled on the US ‘Watertribe’ and draw on their experience of running events like the Challenge.

2.Set up a first event, actually a race.  My proposal would be to start a race for small craft off the beach down in Penzance/Newlyn and race along the entire Uk south coast to a finish point somewhere at the eastern end of the English Channel.  The race would have a series of checkpoints : at least one or 2 in the west-country, for example Falmouth or Fowey, maybe one at the eastern end eg Exmouth, then at the centre of the south coast eg either end of the Solent.    The race i think should be held as a hybrid of the 2 events i have highlighted : i would for example like to see a beach-launched category and the slightly larger boats also able to take part.

In deference to the US watertribe i woulddn’t try and call the group anything like the Uk watertribe, i did think of calling it the ‘Small-craft adventure group’ which sounds a bit dull and worthy but does at least describe the idea.

Over to you lot…..if you think its worth a shot then this one post would need to be widely disseminated and not just get the usual 20 or so views that i normally get so if you like the idea then at least spread it around.


Sailing rowcruiser :

Watertribe :

Race to Alaska.


Gordon Walker wrote : “So I am not alone in thinking of an R2AK (UK). I have also been looking seriously at the Sailing Rowcruiser. I like the idea of maybe 2 classes, one being beach launched and the other not,I had been thinking that the East Coast Rivers (maybe incorporating Medway) might provide a better venue…….”

Ted Timberlake : Interesting. Sounds similar to the Raid concept but more an open sea version.

Me : in the follow-up post, which is on the slipway at the moment, i intend to discuss the reasons why the ‘Raids’ are very dissimilar to either the Watertribe races or the Race to Alaska.  I will also try and lay out why i think the south coast is a good venue for what i see as a ‘Whitbread race’ for dayboats.



  1. So I am not alone in thinking of an R2AK (UK). I have also been looking seriously at the Sailing Rowcruiser. I like the idea of maybe 2 classes, one being beach launched and the other not,I had been thinking that the East Coast Rivers (maybe incorporating Medway) might provide a better venue…….


    1. Thanks for posting. I guess that i know the south-west and the south coast more than anywhere else. One of the main advantages of a south coast race starting in Cornwall is that it should mostly be a downwind race and there are lots of potential stops and checkpoints (which i know is more an Everglades idea). One option i have been playing with is that at least one turning mark would have to be upstream in one of the major south-west rivers to make things even more interesting. While i don’t have a rowcruiser right now i do have a potential boat that could be used. How about you and me create SCAG ? or call it something else maybe small craft race uk or SCR-UK


  2. Trying to flesh out the R2AK(UK) idea, have you an email I could fire some thoughts over to you?

    I see one problem in that if you allow any boat say for example a Sonata lift keel then it just turns into a one way standard boat race, which I see as NOT what it should be!
    I like the inclusiveness of the R2AK and Everglades concepts..paddleboards, kayaks…even a PDR . I don’e see them being comfortable around Portland…..hence how I ended up more thinking East Coast and maybe incorporating starting it in the Broads. The idea of the first stage being over a weekend so that others can give it a go without all the extra effort/time/cost of the full race is also worth copying?
    Length of race (in days) for the slowest likely to complete the course. If its more than 8 days then entry numbers will fall off dramatically for the un-retired amongst us..
    As I said just some of my thoughts. I would like to hear yours?




  3. At Eton, the boys call the rowers “wet bobs” – sounds like the sort of name I’d imagine a small craft group to be called


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