Pre-race tally has 67 teams from nine countries entered in “Race to the Midnight Sun”
The race roster is set for the 15th annual Yukon River Quest, which will begin on Wednesday, June 26 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. This year’s field will feature 67 teams with 180 paddlers from all over the world.Except for two mandatory rest stops totaling 10 hours, paddlers race non-stop over approximately 715 kilometers (444 miles) to Dawson City. Held annually in the north during the last week of June (around the summer solstice), it is a true “Race to the Midnight Sun” where many of the world’s best paddlers gather.
Nine countries are represented in the 2013 field: Austria, Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Poland, Japan, and the United States.
The number of teams is down slightly from last year’s starting roster of 68 teams.
Following the race is a lot of fun, whether you are watching from alongside the river or sitting at home. All teams are required to have activated SPOT devices, which will greatly aid those following the race on their computers or mobile devices. Just follow the Results link at www.yukonriverquest.com and also watch for updates and photos on the race’s Facebook page. You can even replay the race when it’s all over.
The total possible 2013 race purse will be $24,820 (CAD) based on a final registration of 68 teams as of May 15 (one has since dropped). There are overall cash prizes for each class – tandem canoe, tandem kayak, solos, and voyageur canoes – as well as prizes for the top three in each division. There also are cash prizes for the top all-Yukon canoe and kayak teams, and the top First Nations team. Several special awards are also donated by Yukon and Alaska sponsors. But most of the paddlers are just aiming to get to Dawson and be awarded a coveted YRQ Finisher Pin.
Who to Watch on the River
The 2013 YRQ will have stiff competition in many categories. This is a year where any number of different craft could emerge as the overall winner, but here’s a breakdown by class:
- Solo canoe (C1): 3 teams – Fan favorite Hiromune Imai returns for the fourth straight year in a different craft. So far he has finished in solo and tandem kayak and voyageur, and the Ecochallenge Japan veteran now will go solo canoe along with seasoned Yukon adventure paddlers Gienieczko Marcin of Poland and Jeff Brainard of Toronto.
- Solo kayak (K1): 12 men, 1 woman – The favorite has to be past solo and tandem champion Stephen Mooney of Whitehorse, who wants to give it another shot for his 50th birthday after a few years off. He could see a challenge from Australian racer Anthony Cape and race veterans Heinz Rodinger of Austria and Joe Evans of Oregon, who will trade his canoe for a kayak this time around. Unfortunately only one woman signed up this year, “Super Maryo” Mary Obstfeld of Alberta.
- Tandem canoe (C2): 14 men’s teams, 3 women’s, 13 mixed – The largest class in the race harks back to the race’s origins when just tandem canoes were allowed, and this year’s field should be highly competitive. The Faro, YT/Nova Scotia combination of Tim Lynch and Dave Lewis gave a run at the record last year and missed it by eight minutes. They are sure to be chased by past C1 standouts Gaetan Plourde and Ian Mockett of Ontario, and last year’s mixed champ Terry Wescott with fellow racer Chip Loring of Maine. In women’s canoe, the Alberta team of Joanne Arthurs and Andrea deJong have the only YRQ experience, and will see challenges from “Bear(ly) Scared” of Great Britain and “Team Sisu” from Teslin, Yukon . In mixed canoe, several veteran teams should be in the hunt. Back for year 15 is Larry Seethaler with partner Brenda Forsythe of Anchorage, Alaska. Jim and Pam Boyde of Whitehorse, and Pauline Frost-Hanberg of the Yukon and Dennis Fosseneuve of Ontario have placed in prior races as well.
- Tandem kayak (K2): 8 men’s teams, 1 mixed – The K2 class features the Australian dream team of Tom Simmat and Urs Mader, who have each placed as high as second in the K1 class in the past. They should be a formidable team and could challenge for top spot. Also watch out for a pair of teams from Great Britain who are paddling for the Afghanistan Trust that helps British paratroopers recovering from injuries. The lone mixed team is “Pass the Wine Gums” from Whitehorse, and there are no women’s K2 teams this year.
- Voyageur canoe (VC): 4 in the open class; 5 women’s, and 3 mixed teams. The fundraising goes large in the big boats with three teams from Great Britain raising money for “Help for Heroes,” a charity that aids veterans of current UK conflicts in the world. Close to a quarter million dollars was raised last year! They will be challenged by Team Sunrise from Japan. The women’s class will feature some strong Yukon teams – perennial favorites “Paddlers Abreast” and “Team Whoa” along with “300 Years of Wisdom,” “Currently Available” and the “Modern Dwellers” from Alaska. In the mixed division, it appears New York paddler Kerry Newell has assembled a crew of racers called “Passing Through” which may charge to the front of the pack. They could be challenged by “Outward Bound Canada” which had a good race last year in the women’s division. And they both better watch out for “Your Worst Nightmare Dream Team” of USA paddlers from Washington, Texas and Hawaii.
The Start & Race Route
The race organization invites spectators to gather in Rotary Peace Park and along the waterfront on the morning of Wednesday, June 26 to witness the spectacular start and cheer this outstanding international field. The racers line up for introductions at 11:30 a.m. with the historic SS Klondike looming in the background. Then the horn blows at 12 noon and the participants run a short distance to their boats. Watching all the colorful boats leaving Whitehorse is truly one of the most spectacular sights in the north. Then it’s a long paddle on Lake Laberge, through the waning light of the midnight sun on the Thirtymile heritage section, and then on to Carmacks and the first rest stop of 7 hours. After some sleep, they head down Five Finger Rapid, past historic Fort Selkirk, and on to the final rest stop at Kirkman Creek for 3 hours. That gives them energy for the last 100 miles to Dawson City. Teams will finish sometime between the afternoon of Friday, June 28 and Saturday, June 29 just before midnight, the official finish time for the race. An awards banquet will be held at Robert Service School on June 30.
More Volunteers, Sponsors Welcome
Like many great Yukon events, the River Quest could not happen without a tremendous volunteer effort from those in our river communities. Volunteers are needed to help in Whitehorse, Carmacks, Dawson and several checkpoints along the river. There are still spots available, so if you are interested in volunteering, please call the race office at 867-333-5628 or email email@example.com. Check the Volunteer tab on the website to see where you could help.
Complete team bios and a race schedule are online at www.yukonriverquest.com and will appear in a special Whitehorse Star race supplement on June 24.
The race is organized by the Yukon River Marathon Paddling Association, based in Whitehorse. Major logo-level sponsors on board for 2013 include the Whitehorse Star, Kanoe People, Air North, yukoninfo.com, Northland Beverages–Aquafina, City of Whitehorse, Up North Adventures, Driving Force, Superior Roofing and Renovation, and Gold Trail Jewellers.
Many small businesses also support the race by sponsoring bibs worn by paddlers. This year, the YRMPA will be donating 10% of all bib sales up to a maximum of $1,000 to the Whitehorse Food Bank.
A complete sponsor list appears on the race website along with a link to a sponsor package.