Eric Pesty became a fan-favorite in the 2023 Race to Alaska (R2AK), embarking on the incredible 750-nautical-mile race singlehanded, for the second time as Team Pestou. The R2AK is a two stage event, with a 40-mile qualifying race from Port Townsend, Washington to Victoria B.C. before entrants can start the 710-nautical-mile grind from Victoria B.C. to Ketchikan, Alaska. Pesty set a new singlehanded elapsed time record and placed third overall in the 2023 R2AK.

Eric Pesty sailing GENEVA
Eric Pesty sailing his Corsair F-24 trimaran, GENEVA. Photo credit – Eric Pesty.
GENEVA sailing wing on wing
GENEVA sailing wing on wing with sails from UK Sailmakers Northwest. Photo credit – Eric Pesty.

In 2022, Team Pestou’s race came to an abrupt end when his Corsair F-24 trimaran, GENEVA, among many others, suffered a race-ending log strike during a section of the race dubbed “The Strait of Georgia Log Massacre” by 2022 competitors, Team Vegemite Vigilantes.

This year, in an incredible testament to endurance and fortitude, Pesty sailed GENEVA to the finish line in 7 days, 22 hours and 44 minutes. He used an inventory of UK Sailmakers Northwest sails and a custom pedal-to-prop manual propulsion mechanism to power GENEVA. This incredible pace was the fastest elapsed time for a solo participant in the eight-year history of the race, beating the previous 2018 record of 8 days, 4 hours and 16 minutes. 

Eric Pesty Pedal Drive 2023 R2AK
GENEVA’s custom pedal drive helped to keep the boat moving on light-wind days. Photo credit – Eric Pesty.

The R2AK is described by the organizers as, “The first of its kind and North America’s longest human and wind powered race…It’s like the Iditarod, on a boat, with a chance of drowning, being run down by a freighter, or eaten by a grizzly bear. There are squalls, killer whales, tidal currents that run upwards of 20-miles-an-hour, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. $10,000 if you finish first, a set of steak knives if you’re second. Cathartic elation if you can simply complete the course.” 

GENEVA saiilng at sunset
GENEVA sailing at sunset in the 2023 R2AK with a UK Sailmakers spinnaker. Photo credit – Eric Pesty.

The R2AK is a self-supported race with no engines, no supply drops, and no safety nets. It is scored on elapsed time only, there are no division splits and no rating systems to equalize competitors. In most years, only around 50% of the race entrants manage to make it all the way to Ketchikan due to fatigue, injury, or vessel damage.

Regarding his entry, race organizers said, “We’re shocked that Team Pestou resisted the Race to Alaska for this long. He was born for this.” Pesty’s father was a skilled multihull sailor, and his 55’ trimaran served as home and training grounds for Eric. In his teens, Eric was already winning races on Hobies, and his streak has only continued in the Pacific Northwest. He frequently places GENEVA on the podium of multihull divisions at local regattas, often sailing solo. But, from the start, race organizers recognized the primary obstacle for any singlehanded participant, “Until coffee gets a lot stronger…it’s long odds for a solo team to beat a boat with a crew—eventually you have to sleep.”

Although Team Pestou did not win the cash prize or the steak knives, he did win the hearts of many who followed along on his journey through the tracker and the Team Pestou social media posts. Pesty was gifted a prize as the first solo finisher from the first-place finishers, Team We Brake For Whales, in the form of a custom engraved butter knife. 

Pesty was touched by the priceless piece of cutlery, and by the support from all the other participants and fans. He said, “I am really grateful to have had the privilege to share such an adventure, both physically with the amazing other crazy people I met along the way and “virtually” with all of you who cheered me on. I really did not expect what started as a personal challenge to grow into a shared experience with so many, but I am touched by it and hope you all enjoyed the journey!”

Custom butter knife gifted to Eric Pesty by Team We Brake For Whales in the 2023 R2AK
Custom butter knife gifted to Eric Pesty by Team We Brake For Whales for being the first-to-finish the 2023 R2AK singlehanded. Photo credit – Eric Pesty.

Article lead image credit to the R2AK official Facebook page.

Heather Mahady
Heather Mahady

Heather Mahady is the General Manager of UK Sailmakers International. She is based on Vancouver Island in the Pacific Northwest, and is a passionate sailboat racer, sailmaker, and sustainability advocate.

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