A father-son team competing in a sailing race in Alaska added a true Chilliwack element to their boat by installing a pedal-operated paddle wheel on the stern of the sailboat.
|(Jenna Hauck / Progress)|
It was built for the 1,200-mile 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 race in their 26-foot MacGregor sailboat named R2Ache.
“The record time is just under four days. We’ll be pretty happy if we’re done in three weeks,” says Lionel. “What wins you the race is how fast you are when you’re sailing.”
The R2Ache is “moderately fast”, but when the wind drops on the water and when they have to enter and exit marinas, human power will be used.
“The paddlewheel is our answer to that and it’s the first time anyone has tried to build a human-powered paddlewheel,” says Lionel.
Others will use paddles or pedal propellers.
The Jensens’ unique wheel, along with Randy’s decades of sailing experience and Lionel’s tenacity, hope to prove advantageous to the Chilliwack team.
“Dad has all the know-how of sailing racing and I have the enthusiasm. Together, we have a good tolerance for risk. It keeps me in line.
The Jensens bought the sailboat in January and have been preparing it for the race ever since. With the help of their sponsor Hammer Welding, they built the paddlewheel and attached bike chains, gears and pedals with which to spin the 100-pound wheel.
“I was actually quite surprised at how well it works,” says Randy.
Lionel sits on the wooden seat and explains how the wheel can be raised and lowered.
“It’s a pretty nifty pulley system, because going up or down an inch or two makes a big difference,” he says.
“He’s very depth sensitive,” adds Randy. “The smaller the wheel, the more sensitive it is to depth. If it’s too deep, you waste a lot of energy.
They will be heading to the United States on Friday, May 31, and R2AK will begin on Monday. Stage 1 is 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.
“There probably hasn’t been a paddle boat in Victoria for 100 years,” says Randy.
There will be a little delay for the R2Ache team.
“We’re going to start the race, let’s 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, ”explains Lionel.
It’s okay for the Jensens, they think they’re just giving the other boats a head start.
Currently, about 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 others are, it’s a fun race.
|(Jenna Hauck / Progress)|
“One of the big things that makes this race unique is that no one takes it seriously, even the race organizers,” says Lionel.
Although first prize is US$10,000, second place is a set of steak knives and “the cathartic elation if you can just complete the course,” as stated on the race’s 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.
“For us, it’s adventure. We’re not trying to win, we want to try to win before this boat catches up to us,” Lionel said.
Most of the route will be fairly sheltered, with the biggest obstacles being cruise ships and barges, but there are three areas where they will be exposed open water: Cape Caution on the northern tip of Vancouver Island , the Juan de Fuca between Port Townsend and Victoria, and the Dixon Entrance north of Price Rupert.
Aboard the R2Ache they will pack food, water, GPS devices, paper charts, VHF radio, Coast Guard required safety equipment 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.
“There’s no engine, there’s no noise and you feel the wind inflate the sail and the boat starts to move. It’s such a nice feeling,” he says. “Before, I couldn’t understand how exciting it could be to do seven knots – maybe it’s 12 kilometers per hour – but once you feel it, you get it. It’s calm , it is quiet. “
Anyone who wants to follow Randy and Lionel Jensen aboard R2Ache can go online to r2ak.com and watch the live race tracker which begins June 3. You can also find their biography on the race website.
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