A father-son team competing in an Alaskan sailing race added a true Chilliwack element to their boat by installing a pedal paddlewheel at the stern of the sailboat.
|(Jenna Hauck / Progress)|
It was built for the 1,200 kilometer Race 2 Alaska (R2AK) regatta from Washington State to Alaska, which is open to all non-powered boats. Lionel Jensen, 28, and his father Randy, 70, will compete in the race with their 26ft MacGregor sailboat named R2Ache.
âThe record time is just under four days. We’ll be pretty happy if we’re done in three weeks, âsays Lionel. “What makes you win the race is the speed at which you are sailing.”
The R2Ache is “moderately fast”, but when the wind hits the water and when they need to get in and out of marinas, human power will be used.
âThe paddle wheel is our response to this and this is the first time anyone has tried to build a human powered paddle wheel,â says Lionel.
Others will use paddles or pedal propellers.
The Jensens unique wheel, along with Randy’s decades of boating experience and Lionel’s tenacity hope to prove to the benefit of the Chilliwack team.
âDad has all the know-how of regatta sailing and I have the enthusiasm. Together, we have a good tolerance for risk. He keeps me in line.
The Jensens bought the sailboat in January and have been preparing it for racing ever since. With the help of their sponsor Hammer Welding, they built the paddle wheel and attached bike chains, gears and pedals with which to spin the 100 pound wheel.
âI was actually quite surprised at how well it works,â says Randy.
Lionel sits in the wooden seat and explains how the wheel can be raised and lowered.
âIt’s a pretty smooth pulley system, because going up or down an inch or two makes a big difference,â he says.
âIt’s very sensitive to depth,â adds Randy. âThe smaller the wheel, the more sensitive it is to depth. If it’s too deep, you’re wasting a lot of energy.
They will travel to the United States on Friday, May 31, and R2AK will begin on Monday. Stage 1 runs from Port Townsend to Victoria, and riders have 36 hours to complete this stage. Stage 2 begins in Victoria on June 6 and heads north to Ketchikan, Alaska.
âThere probably hasn’t been a paddleboat in Victoria for 100 years,â says Randy.
There will be a small delay for the R2Ache team.
“We will start the race, go for two hours [to Victoria], park the boat, I’ll run to the airport and fly to Edmonton. The next morning, I cross the stage to obtain my doctorate, and that evening, I return to Victoria and get back on the boat, âexplains Lionel.
That’s okay for the Jensens, they think they’re just giving the other boats a little lead.
Currently, around 45 teams are registered. Some of them are state of the art catamarans and trimarans with sailors who have raced all over the world. But no matter how competitive the others, it’s a fun race.
|(Jenna Hauck / Progress)|
âOne of the great things that makes this race unique is that nobody takes it seriously, even the race organizers,â explains Lionel.
Although the first place prize is US $ 10,000, second place is a set of steak knives and âcathartic exhilaration if you can just complete the course,â as listed on the race website.
There is a boat called the Grim Sweeper which leaves Victoria three weeks after the start of the race. If he catches you, you’re out.
âFor us, it’s adventure. We are not trying to win, we want to try to get there before this boat catches up with us, âsaid Lionel.
Most of the route will be fairly protected, with the biggest obstacles being cruise ships and barges, but there are three areas where they will be exposed open water: Cape Caution at the north end of Vancouver Island , the Juan de Fuca between Port Townsend and Victoria, and the Dixon Entrance north of Price Rupert.
On board the R2Ache, they will take food, water, GPS devices, paper nautical charts, a VHF radio, the safety equipment required by the coast guard and various sails. There are even solar panels on the boat to power their lights.
Lionel still remembers the first time he felt a boat move under sail.
âThere is no engine, there is no noise and you can feel the wind swelling the sail and the boat starts to move. It’s such a nice feeling, âhe says. âBefore, I didn’t understand how exciting it could be to make seven knots – it’s maybe 12 kilometers an hour – but once you feel it, you understand. It’s calm, it’s calm.