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A teen Seattle crew attempts to make history in the 'Race to Alaska'

Four local friends take on the daunting Inside Passage. #k5evening

SEATTLE — Nadia Khalil, Sebastian Dougherty, Enzo Dougherty, and Francesca Dougherty make a pretty good team.

"We just look out for each other," Khalil said. "That's what we've been doing so far and it's working really well."

That'll come in handy as the teens traverse 750 miles of challenging waters in a cramped, 27-foot sailboat.

"We're going to have our challenges," Francesca Dougherty said.

Two of the three Doughertys, Francesca and Enzo, are siblings. Sebastian Dougherty (no relation) is a longtime friend and sailing partner.

Along with Khalil, the three Doughertys form the youngest crew in the famed "Race to Alaska," a mad seaborne scramble up the unpredictable Inside Passage, pitting more than three dozen teams against the elements and each other.

The race features everything from kayaks and pedal boats to sailing vessels and rowboats.

"The whole thing is that there are no motors," Khalil said. "It's just a human-powered or wind-powered race."

The teens go by the name "Team Mustang Survival's Rite of Passage," and they've been training for the past six months, even practicing crew overboard drills in chilly Puget Sound.

"We're kind of representing youth sailing, and we want to represent them in a good way," Francesca Dougherty said.

They're ready for whatever the frigid waters up north have to offer.

"And it just gets really, really cold," she continued. "And the weather is completely different."

They've even practiced their at-sea bathroom skills.

"You can ask someone to look the other way," she said.

Apparently, "using the bathroom" involves hanging off the back of the boat.

"Especially if it's rough out, that can be a little dicey," Enzo Dougherty said.

"Dicey" came early.

On the morning the crew left Port Townsend for Victoria, BC, the first leg of the race, near-gale-force winds surprised and swamped some of the other competitors. Several racers needed to be plucked from the water by a Coast Guard rescue team.

The teen crew made the safe choice to turn around and wait for a break in the weather, and race organizers extended the deadline for crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. So "Team Mustang's" smart thinking allows them to stay afloat for another day, and another chance to become the youngest crew to ever conquer the "Race to Alaska."

RELATED: Coast Guard, good Samaritans help rescue kayakers, sailors from Strait of Juan de Fuca

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