BELLINGHAM -- The Boundary Bay Brewery men's team won the 2014 Ski to Sea race after building a commanding lead.
Team kayaker Greg Barton crossed the finish line of the seven-leg relay race at 1:25 p.m., logging an unofficial overall race time of 5:40:08.
That was nearly six minutes before second place Team Aeromech.
Beavers Tree Service finished third overall and was tops in the Whatcom County Open division. GetSimpleBox.com was fifth overall and took the Masters division title. The Veterans division was won by Bank of the Pacific Veterans, which finished seventh overall.
The Boundary Bay women's team finished 13th overall and ahead of all other women's teams.
The Boundary men's team is always a competitor but may have gotten a boost after Barron Heating, which won the last three races, dropped out of the competition this year. Some members of Barron's team competed for Boundary this year.
After years of problems with the timing systems, everything appeared to be working smoothly Sunday.
"No snags at all," Race Director Pete Coy said as the first racers began the kayak leg. "Let's hope the day continues like this this."
While it was raining along the course at times, it was nothing like last year's downpours, which made conditions miserable in many spots. Those on the mountain had it much easier this year, with no rain at the start of the race. Last year the cross-country skiers struggled to stay on their skis as many slid out of control, while the runners tried to huddle together to stay warm; they had no shelter from the pounding rain.
The heavy rain didn't start to fall until many teams were into the kayak leg. Still the winds stayed calm enough that the zig-zag course was kept intact instead of going to a straight-line shortened course to the Marine Park finish line.
By 4 p.m., 360 teams had crossed the finish line or at least had their kayaker in the water. Of the about 100 remaining, the last cross-country biker was on the course and headed to Zuanich. It was expected the last kayaker would depart by 5 p.m. for the last five miles of the 93 mile race.
For the first time in 23 years, Barron Heating does not have a team in this year's race. Owner John Barron said he just felt it was time to pass the baton, so to speak, to another team.
Barron Heating had dominated recently, winning the past three years. During one stretch last decade, a Barron Heating Open or Masters team had won six out of seven years.
John Barron said when they first started sponsoring a team, it involved little more than paying the entrance fee. Over the years landing high-caliber athletes and organizing the team has become more work, but it's a job he said he's enjoyed.
"It's become an extremely personal thing to do every year, and that's what I'll miss most about doing this," Barron said, adding that meeting the athletes and hearing their stories is something he cherishes.