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Wainwright hopes to race to Alaska on self-powered trimaran

Put a young man with grand dreams together with a self-described old geek inventor with great toys, and you just might make magic. Nicolas Wainwright of Friday Harbor, a firefighter, sailor and social media guru, hopes so.

He intends to join the first 750-mile “Race to Alaska” from Port Townsend to Ketchikan this summer. The rules of the race, which was started by “a bunch of sailors in Port Townsend,” said Wainwright, are that the vehicle must be self powered, with no motor of any type, no crew, and no ground support along the way. The daunting and dangerous race appealed to the 28-year-old when Wainwright, who said, “When I first heard about it, I knew I had to do it.”

Enter Steve Roberts and his amphibian pedal/sail/solar Microship. A ten-year project completed in 2001, the Microship took Roberts on several adventures in local waters before his back protested and the Microship (on its own wheels) headed back to land. The funny-looking craft now sits indoors - in a shop space that is partially donated by San Juan Business Park - , sad, yearning for adventure - lucky to find someone like Nick Wainwright.

Roberts built the Microship after tiring of the road, when water travel beckoned as his next nomadic frontier.

The canoe-scale micro-trimaran is 19 feet long and 11 feet wide, powered by pedal, solar and sail power. For the race, Wainwright can use only pedal and sail, per the rules. The original “Technomad” who pedaled 17,000 miles around the US in the 1980s on a self-made computerized recumbent bicycle, Roberts has been helping Wainwright prepare Microship for the race, delighted to see his craft embark on another adventure.

“Sail, Row, Paddle All the Way to Alaska. Do You Have What It Takes?” says the Race to Alaska website. The race begins June 4. It is expected to take as long as a month to complete. Winner takes all.


First prize: $10,000. Second Prize, says the website, is “a set of steak knives.” About 20 people have signed up so far including Nigel Oscar from Friday Harbor.

Wainwright is hell bent on being the next on the roster. He spends every spare moment with the Microship, both working on it in Robert’s island lab and taking it out for test spins around Friday Harbor. He has the will, and the vehicle.

“All that holds me back now is money: entry fee, safety gear, parts and fabrication to get the boat back on the water.” The Firefighter Foundation recently gave $1,000, his first major donation.

The deadline to sign up is April 15. Learn more at RacetoAlaska.com

Wainwright is available to speak to local groups. He has a GoFundMe campaign at gofundme.com/microship.

His contact information is nick@socialsailor.com; phone 360 317 5118.

Story by Rebecca Parks

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