It's one of the more grueling and beautiful boat races of the year.
The Spirit of Adventure Around Admiralty race, hosted by the Juneau Yacht Club, celebrates its 21st year with racing class and cruising class races.
The racing class takes off from the south end of Shelter Island on Saturday at noon while the cruising class sets sail from the same spot today at 10 a.m.
"The race began the first solstice after the 25th anniversary of Alaska statehood," said skipper Brian Lieb. "That was the whole idea, the grueling spirit of adventure, staying the night. If it's clear it never really gets dark anyway."
The racing class will feature feature two smaller, quicker boats with crews of five to six people.
The stunning race starts at Shelter Island, goes north to Point Retreat an then runs south all the way to Warm Springs Bay.
Following a 24-hour rest period, the crews depart Warm Springs Bay and head south around Yasha Island at the southern tip of Admiralty, where it heads up north and into town. The race concludes in front of Mayflower Island.
The race encompasses around 200 nautical miles and tests the limits and endurance of both skippers and crew.
"The racing class races around Admiralty and stops once at Warm Springs Bay," Lieb, skipper of the Haiku, said. "The racing goes all night while the cruising class can anchor each night."
While the racing class crews must battle time and endurance during the all-night race, there are always the elements boats must carefully navigate.
In Lieb's first Spirit of Adventure race in 2000, the weather proved just a big an obstacle as the competition.
"We got down to the southern end of Admiralty and the tides were out and the wind was in at about 25 knots with tall, choppy seas," the 32-year-old Leib said. "There were lots of whales. It was spectacular and extremely exciting sailing. No matter what, Alaska can still get pretty bad weather."
While the racing class is a mad dash for the finish line, the three-boat cruising class is a little more laid back.
The bigger boats don't race overnight and have a week to traverse the course, Lieb said.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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