The Race to Alaska is a self-supported engineless boat race that runs the treacherous, isolated, and beautiful waters of British Columbia’s Inside Passage–750 miles from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. I had the privilege of participating in the race this year as one half of Team Excellent Adventure in a 17-foot sailboat that we rigged up with oarlocks and a sliding rowing seat so we could row when the wind was light. We completed the ordeal in 16 days.

Every boat in the race was fitted with a SPOT satellite tracker that recorded speed, heading, and position every fifteen minutes. I decided to do some quick visualizations of that data to learn a bit more about our experience and the experience of the other similar and dissimilar boats that we were sailing against.

The boat selection icons are scaled to appropriately match the relative lengths of the different boats.┬áThe first visual shows straight-line distance from Victoria for each of the SPOT check-ins. Horizontal lines represent stopped boats, and the steeper the line the faster the boat was moving. Turn on MAD Dog Racing to see what a fast boat looks like. Turn on Excellent Adventure and Bunny Whaler to see a pair of boats that were pretty evenly matched–both 17-foot monohulls. After a bit of back and forth early in the race we traveled together 7/1 through 7/3 along Johnstone Strait where strong tidal currents prevent forward progress every six hours–you can see the points where we anchored and waited for the tide to change. (A)


After a pause in Telegraph Cove, Excellent Adventure continued on with only 3 stops before hitting Ketchikan (thank God for having a small bunk on the boat!). One of the reasons we stopped was strong weather (B) and you can see that it affected Bunny Whaler a bit later on. Finally you can see Bunny Whaler put the pedal to the metal and scream into Ketchikan with a killer last day. (C)

The rest of the visuals are pretty self-explanatory… I might put together a post later on explaining how I built the reports and transformed a stack of lat/lon/timestamp data into the visuals you see here. And because Power BI is pretty neat, I only need to change a single line of code to point my queries at any other race event in the database (R2AK 2015, R2AK 2017(!), Swiftsure, etc) to have this same set of interactive reports filled with the new set of data. Woo!

Let me know what you think! Big thanks to Northwest Maritime Center for putting on an awesome event! I can’t wait for next year!