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Victoria trimaran crew sails to victory in Race to Alaska, breaking 'the curse'

It was Team Malalo’s third try to win — in 2022, they had to pull out after damage from a log strike

A Victoria-based team is the first with an all-Canadian crew to win the Race to Alaska, a “no motors, no support” boat race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska via Victoria.

Team Malalo skipper Duncan Gladman and crew members Paul Gibson, Becky Kelly and Matthew Macatee used both sail and pedal power to complete the 1,200-kilometre journey — finishing the main leg from Victoria to Ketchikan on Monday after five days and three hours at sea.

It was Team Malalo’s third try to win in a custom-built Cochrane trimaran, named Dragon.

Gladman said the race was “unfinished business” for him and Gibson, who were together for the first two tries.

“For Becky and Matt, they love adventures and are super-competitive,” he said. “They have listened to both Paul and I and the numerous R2AK stories, so it’s natural that they both said we have to go, even though I said never again after 2022.”

The pedals on the boat were used to keep it going when the wind was low — at one point, the crew spent 15 hours pedalling around Cape Caution, across Queen Charlotte Strait from the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Team members took 30-minute turns on the pedals through the ordeal.

Team Malalo, one of 32 teams that left Victoria last Wednesday, came away with $10,000, finishing about 145 kilometres ahead of its nearest competitors.

Race organizers called the team’s triumph “a story of grit, persistence, and redemption to go with their evident nautical savvy and skill.”

It wasn’t such a happy ending in 2022, when Gladman and Gibson had to drop out at Comox after serious vessel damage from a log strike at high speed.

In 2019, the pair competed as Team Pair Shaped and took home second prize — a set of steak knives.

With the 2024 win, “Duncan and crew have broken the curse,” said Jesse Wiegel, known as the “race boss.”

Describing the team’s tenacity, the race website says: “Rather than taking up crochet, golf or model trainery, Duncan and crew kept grinding, working out the kinks — years of training, maintenance and running the trap line of local races.”

Team Malalo will receive its award in a ceremony tonight at the Alaska Fish House in Ketchikan. Tradition dictates that $10,000 in cash nailed to a piece of firewood will serve as the prize.

Team Brio from Durango, Colorado came in about 15 hours behind Team Malalo to take second place and win the steak knives, while Team Hullabaloo from San Francisco was third.

Both teams used trimarans.

Teams Victory Oar Duff, which includes six navy members from CFB Esquimalt in a 27-foot Montague whaler, and Fairly Fleabag, a sailboat with Liam Pareis at the helm — both previously featured in the Times Colonist — were still racing as of Tuesday afternoon.

Ellery Down, skipper of the navy team, had said he expected to take about 18 days to get to Ketchikan.

Overall, 26 teams remained in the race Tuesday.

The race, organized by the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, has been an annual event in the past but will now take place every two years.

You can follow the race at

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