NB Film Fest – Beauty and Terror in Nautical Documentary “Race to Alaska”

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“Race to Alaska”

Anyone with the heart of an adventurer, or anyone who enjoys adventure from the safety of the sofa, will want to sign on to the 90-minute documentary, “Race to Alaska,” an entrant in the Newport Beach Film Festival by Director Zach Carver, and screenwriters Carver and Greg King.

One could call this the Iditarod of salt water: a 750-mile boat race through both open ocean and inland passage from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska.

The race is unique in that the only propulsion allowed is either wind or human effort; sails or paddles, or pedal-powered propellers or fins. Teams and individuals bring nearly indescribable competitive drive, varying degrees of sea experience, ingenuity to guide and cajole their broad spectrum of watercraft, a sense of humor that’s as important as a trade wind, and necessary teamwork.

“Race to Alaska”

Those who eschew teamwork are those few who opt to solo, but just as importantly they understand the “teamwork” of working with what nature throws at them. And throw she does: towering seas; short, pounding waves; confusing winds; rapidly reversing currents; whirlpools; tidal rapids; frustrating calms; rains, fog and biting cold. All these are compounded by the mechanical emergencies that almost invariably beset most sailors or watercraft.

And speaking of watercraft, they span the spectrum from quarter-million-dollar one-offs to SUP (Stand-up paddle board), outriggers, catamarans, and classic dinghies.

As the old saying goes, “Only the strong survive.” That includes both boats and people.  The first 40 miles, across the notorious Strait of Juan de Fuca, from the U.S. to Canada, separates the unprepared dreamers, both the lucky and accomplished.

In fact, once in Canadian territory, the Canadian Coast Guard tries to discourage and intimidate sailors, for as the captain explains to the assembled group of race hopefuls, “People don’t know how dangerous it is out there,” underscoring the harsh reality that “We only search for live people, not dead people.”

The film highlights the “hours of beauty and terror.” It’s a documentary that shares the spirit of adventure that is most likely, in some measure, resident in all of us.

“Race to Alaska” is part of the 2020 Newport Beach Film Festival, which has gone virtual this year and runs through October 11. For information on viewing this film and other films in the festival, visit www.NewportBeachFilmFest.com.  

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