The Race to Alaska

Insights | Impact

Zach Carver’s film documents a boating race that pushes its contestants to the edge of endurance. The titular competition, also known as R2AK, takes contestants from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. Participants must traverse 750 miles of dangerous waters - the Inside Passage - without using motors of any kind, and without any outside support - that means no sponsors, no dockside repair teams, and nobody but the Coast Guard to offer help out there in the treacherous waters.

It’s a challenge many mariners would run from; those who take it on are varied in their experience and motivations, but they share a strength of spirit that viewers may look at with awe and envy. It’s a joy to see these folks in action, and Carver’s doc jumps from boat to boat as it spans the five years from R2AK’s inception to its most recent edition. The footage is interwoven with post-race reminiscences, background info, and commentary from the competition’s organizers. Bracing, immersive and wonderfully congenial, this film is a tribute to the spirit of adventure.


Includes an interview with Director: Zach Carver

Canadian premiere
Director Icon Director
Zach Carver
Executive Producer Louise Runge, Leandro Marini
Producer Liv von Oelreich, Ian Morland, Zach Carver
Screenwriter Zach Carver, Greg King
Cinematographer Zach Carver
Editor Greg King
Music Spencer Wirth-Davis
Production Company Blimp, Untethered Productions
Source R2AK
USA/Canada 2020 97 min. English, French with English subtitles Trailer


Please note that VIFF 2020 online films can be viewed in British Columbia only.

Carver, Zach headshot


Originally from Seattle, Zach Carver studied visual art at Colorado College, and earned an MFA in film directing from Columbia University. His short films include Sin Matador and Amateur Dictator, which won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival and is currently in development as a feature film. In addition to directing the feature documentary about the Race to Alaska, Zach coordinated teams of field producers and camera operators across the 750-mile race course.