Pre-race tally has 58 teams from 12 countries entered in “Race to the Midnight Sun”
The race roster is set for the 17th annual Yukon River Quest, which will begin on Wednesday, June 24 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. This year’s field will feature 58 teams with 155 paddlers from all over the world.
Twelve countries are represented: Australia, Canada (9 provinces/territories), France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States (10 states).
While the total number of teams is down a bit from last year’s 62 that started, the actual number of paddlers has increased by two. This can be attributed to an increase in the number of registered voyageur teams from 8 in 2014 to 10 in 2015.
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.
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 2015 race purse will be $21,541 (CAD) based on a final registration of 59 teams as of May 15 (one solo kayak team has withdrawn since that date). 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
As in 2014, there are very few returning champions in this year’s race, which means most classes are up for grabs. This is another year where any number of different craft could emerge as the overall winner. Here’s a breakdown by class:
• Solo canoe (C1): 3 teams – Pick ‘em! Two racers in this class have some YRQ experience. Manitoban Robert Fontaine (North of 55) finished in fourth place in this class in 2014 and has a lot of voyageur racing experience all over Canada, while younger Bradley Magnuson of Whitehorse (Rock Solid Drilling) raced in a respectable Yukon voyageur team in 2010. Bryan Allemang of Ontario (Gold Oariented) has some short races under his belt but only a few day trips up north. This is a tough class and all will be happy to get to Dawson.
• Solo kayak (K1): 17 teams (16 men, 1 woman )– Last year’s runner-up in this class, Whitehorse paddling guide Thomas de Jager (Vini Vedi Vici), is the early favorite, but he will be chased by the third place finisher in K1 last year, Wayne Anderson (Akita) from Alberta. They finished just over an hour apart. Also watch out for 3-time YRQ racer Shawn Corrigan (Paddling Forward) of Manitoba, who finished third in this class with a fast time in 2012, and Japanese marathon paddler Yoshiki Higo. In this class from Great Britain are four solo paddling military veterans under the banner Cockleshell Endeavor, raising money for the UK charity: Care After Combat. One of them, Mick Dawson, has rowed across both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Also on a mission is Mike Harlow (Pepper For CFC) of Inuvik, NWT, who will aim to “get to the race in one piece…and finish what I started in 2013”. That was the year he crashed his car en route to the race. Safe journey, Mike! The only woman in the field is 2012 veteran Erin Giesbrecht (Erinfroglady) of Whitehorse. Watch out gentlemen.
• Tandem canoe (C2): 19 teams (8 men’s teams, 2 women’s, 9 mixed) – The men’s class will feature the past two solo champions in the same canoe. Gaetan Plourde and Jeff Brainard (Perfect Storm) of Ontario are an early favorite to take the overall title, but will certainly see a challenge from the K2 or VC division and possibly within C2. The Irish team of Dara Lundon and Brian Kelly (Celtic Warriors) and the Hungarian team of Doctors Istvan Munch and Kristof Szam (Hungarian Ember) look game along with Ontario racers Mike DeAbrew and Tom Phillips (Strokes of Genius) and the Alberta team of John Little and Ron Sorokin (Lazing Paddles XI). Little is back for his 11th YRQ. The mixed canoe division has the strong Yukon-BC veteran team of Pauline Frost and Derek Crook, along with the UK’s Sara Wallis and Dan Able with a great name (Paddle Faster, I Hear an Argument), and an Ontario media team (Canoeroots) with the magazine’s editor Kaydi Pyette and partner Geoff Whitlock. It’s a two-team race in women’s canoe between sisters Shari and Melissa Valja (Vellamo) of Ontario and the Canada-USA pair of Rumi Kodamo and Rhiannon Bronstein (Too Tall for Y’all) from Prince Rupert, BC and Seattle, Washington.
• Tandem kayak (K2): 9 teams (1 men’s teams, 5 women’s, 4 mixed) – Last year’s second overall finisher and solo kayak champ David Hutchinson of Montana is back this year with a partner, Bob Ross of Ontario, who took fifth in K1 back in 2012. They should be in a race with two former K1 champs from BC, Gus Oliveria and Chris Spoor (Bald and Sexy). Oliveira was a co-champ paddling in with Whitehorse’s Steve Mooney in 2013, while Spoor won K1 in 2012. The mixed field looks wide open with the experienced team of Josh Friedman and Julie Kirk of Idaho (Spirit of America) back for another run, the German team of former Olympic sprint champion Birgit Fischer and Wolfram “Charlie” Schleicher (Yukon Gold Rush), and others. In women’s K2, Laura Maclean and Lisa Brougham of BC (Alpine Start) will face a challenge from two European teams of paddlers from the Netherlands and France (NIGOR Parula and NIGOR Guam) who are paddling for 4WOMEN4WATER at water.org.
• Voyageur canoe (VC): 10 teams (4 women’s, 5 mixed teams, and one men’s open team). The big numbers are back in the big boats, which should be led by last year’s third overall team and VC champ Ts’alvit captained by Whitehorse’s Jim Boyd. Aside from his wife Pam, this is a totally new team but with an experienced crew including past women’s C2 champs Pat McKenna and Liz Boseley, Mia Lee, Justin Wallace and Andre Paul. They should be chased by the Skagway, Alaska team Alfred E. Paddlers (new name) that gave the Yukon team a run early in last year’s race. Captained by Cory “Hightower” Thole of Packer Expeditions fame, it includes Dyea to Dawson race veterans Cynde Adams and Dennis Bousson, and some strong young paddlers in A.J. Conley, Josh Gold and Dirk Foss. Their name is derived from the Colorado cannibal Alfred E. Packer, but it is not known what is on their menu. The only men’s team, Ontario’s Yukon Do It, will have to make a run for the overall VC title with no one else in its class. In women’s voyageur, Team 3-2-1 Go from all over North America could be tough along with Whitehorse’s Tough Birches and the First Nations team CAP. Back this year are veteran teams Paddlers Abreast and WHOA, who exemplify the good will that this race is all about.
Bios for every team in the race, are at: https://www.yukonriverquest.ca/yrq/app/15yrq/teams.php
The Start & Race Route
The race organization invites spectators to gather in Rotary Peace Park and along the Whitehorse waterfront on the morning of Wednesday, June 24 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 on Thursday, June 25. After some sleep, the paddlers 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 161 kms. (100 miles) to Dawson City. Teams will finish sometime between the afternoon of Friday, June 26 and Saturday, June 27 just before midnight, the official finish time for the race. An awards banquet will be held at Robert Service School on Sunday, June 28.
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, and Dawson and a few remote 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 22.
The race is organized by the Yukon River Marathon Paddling Association, based in Whitehorse. Major logo-level sponsors on board for 2015 include the Whitehorse Star, Kanoe People, Air North, yukoninfo.com, Northland Beverages–Aquafina, City of Whitehorse, Up North Adventures, CKRW – The Rush, Superior Roofing and Renovation, and Gold Trail Jewellers.
Many small businesses also support the race by sponsoring bibs worn by paddlers.A complete sponsor list appears on the race website along with a link to a sponsor package.