Pre-race tally has 94 teams from 14 countries entered in “Race to the Midnight Sun”
By YRQ MEDIA
The race roster is set for the 18th annual Yukon River Quest, which will begin on Wednesday, June 29 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. This year’s field, as of today’s date, will feature 94 teams with 236 paddlers from all over the world.
Fourteen countries are represented: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada (8 provinces/territories), Germany, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States (15 states).
This year there has been a significant increase in numbers. Registrations actually topped out at the limit of 100 teams back in March. Two had withdrawn prior to the May 15 end of registration, and another four have since withdrawn, leaving 94 teams as the pre-race start figure. That’s the highest since the race began in 1999. The previous record was 89 teams in 2008.
The 94 teams include 11 that are signed up for an experimental Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) class, which certainly helped boost interest in the race.
“This year we have the largest number of paddlers ever, some of whom are not taking the Yukon River Quest challenge sitting down,” said Harry Kern, president of the Yukon River Marathon Paddlers Association. “The Stand Up Paddlers are on their way to show their stuff, and this has generated a lot of interest–since the day of the first announcement back in November. I look forward to their participation in our event as well as that of the many returning paddlers and rookies alike. I also look forward to the silencing of the naysayers as the SUPs stroke into Dawson City.”
Except for two mandatory rest stops totaling 10 hours, paddlers race non-stop over the 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 2016 race purse will be $35,770 (CAD) based on the paid registration of 98 teams as of May 15. 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 also are 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. That will certainly be the goal of the experimental SUP class, which will have no prize money. If enough of the SUPs finish safely, then they could be added as an official class next year.
Who to Watch on the River
- Solo canoe (C1): 5 teams – Pick ‘em! Four racers in this class have YRQ experience, led by returning 2015 class champ Bryan Allemang (Gold Oariented) of Ontario. Joe Evans (When Pigs Fly) from Oregon is back for his seventh race and plans to work on his poetry while paddling this year. Manitoban Robert Fontaine (North of 55 FWFN) is back for a third straight crack at the YRQ, and Yukoner Bradley Magnuson (Rock Solid Exploration) aims to finish. Then there’s promising newcomer William Siersdorfer (Mr. Bill), a US paddler who has finished two other grueling races, the Missouri River 340 and the Texas Water Safari. We’ll see how he measures up in the YRQ.
- Solo kayak (K1): 16 teams (14 men, 2 women ) – This is shaping up to be a very competitive class this year. The pre-race favorite has to be 2015 overall co-champ and 2014 solo kayak winner David Hutchison of Montana, who will be back paddling solo. But wait, his K2 partner from last year’s top team, Bob Ross (Nail-by-Nail) of Ontario, is also going solo! They will need to watch out for past K1 champ Brad Pennington (El Nino) of Texas and a pair of Canadian paddlers who tied for third last year, local paddling guide Thomas de Jager (Vini Vedi Vici) and Wayne Anderson (Akita) from Alberta. Then there is race legend Heinz Rodinger (The Austrian) who is back in the YRQ after a one-year hiatus. At 75, this former Olympian is still going strong! The women’s K1 will be a BC dual between Aliye Tuzlak of Terrace and Rozanne Pilbeam (Muk Muk) of Vancouver.
- Tandem canoe (C2): 33 teams (22 men’s teams, 4 women’s, 7 mixed) – Tandem canoe remains the most popular class in the race. The men’s division will feature last year’s overall runner-up team of Gaetan Plourde and Jeff Brainard (Perfect Storm) of Ontario who will be aiming for the top spot. The two former solo C1 champs teamed up last year. Also watch out for the strong father-son team of Steve and Connor Landick (Crazy Heart) from Michigan and the Yukon team of Lee Hawkings and Ian Weir (EDI Stroke Gods) who won the Icebreaker race in early June with a fast time. The women’s C2 field will feature veteran Pauline Frost of Whitehorse and Nichole McDonald of Inuvik, NWT (mappingtheway.ca) and former Yukoner Joanie Pelletier paddling with long-time Quebec friend Laurelie Harvey (Wouppalaye). Then there’s two more teams with local connections that will have to explain their names: Ashley Cunningham and Sarah Newton (Upstream with a Wet Skirt) and Rena Dehene and Steph Leson (Frisky Beavers). In mixed canoe, last year’s third place team of Robert Spinks and Alex Jessup (Dawson Before Dark) from the Yukon will aim to live up to their name again (last year it was “Dawson Before Dawn”), but watch out for the BC husband-wife team of Duhane Lam and Tomi Johnson (Jetstream) who recently won a series of races in North Vancouver.
- Tandem kayak (K2): 14 teams (10 men’s teams, 1 women’s, 3 mixed) – This class has a number of international teams, but the best of the lot may be the lone women’s team. Sisters Lisa and Karla McGee (A Blonde Idea III) are back to challenge the women’s K2 record. The men’s team of Jeff Friedrichsen and Bob Hamms (IOWA) are from neighboring Illinois and Missouri but have MR340 finishes under their belts. Others to watch are Devizes to Westminster (UK) finishers David Thom and Peter Mant (Team Glaslough) and Bob McCall and Gary Charnell (Six Feet Fours with Oars) from the United Kingdom, Australians Geeb Smith and Derek Chart (Team Jester), and the Arizona father-son team of Robert and Druce Finlay (Sea Breeze Ninjas). Mixed K2 will see a pair of two-time finishers: Josh Friedman and Julie Kirk (Spirit of America) from Idaho, and the brother-sister team of Dan and Olivia Hall (Hall or Nothing?) from the UK and Ontario. Women’s K2 finisher Lisa Brougham of BC from 2015 will go mixed this year with Mark Seilig and a clever name (Kayak Patrol – It’s Snowing Somewhere).
- Voyageur canoe (VC): 15 teams (4 men’s teams, 5 women’s, 6 mixed) – There will be another huge field in the big boat class this year, and it’s really hard to pick a favorite. The Yukon’s “Team Ts’alvit”, captained by Jim Boyde, has been very strong the past couple of races, as has the Skagway, Alaska team captained by A.J. Conley, which will be paddling as “Maggio’s Magic” in memory of support crew member Chris Maggio who died in a helicopter crash in Alaska last month. A young local team “7th chakra,” captained by Daniel Joseph, could do well. Coming from afar are the Nova Scotia team “Strokes of Luck,” captained by Anne Clark, and “The Future is Now, Let’s Build Together,” captained by Wilco de Groot, is back from the Netherlands. The open field has a pair of teams from Great Britain called “Yukon Do It” and “Yukon Beat ‘Em” going up against “Team CAP” from the Yukon, captained by Donna Johns. Perennial crowd favorites “Paddlers Abreast,” captained by Michelle Wagner, and “Team WHOA,” captained by Shelley Gellatly, will lead the women’s division, but watch out for those ageless wonders in “Six of Hearts” captained by Katie Stein Sather of BC, and several former “Paddlers Abreast” members in “Stix Together,” captained by Lynn Rice-Rideout, who will be paddling for the Yukon Cancer Care Fund.
- Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) experimental open class: 11 teams – Spectators will see a mix of world class racers like Bart de Zwart of Hawaii, Joanne Hamilton-Vale and Andre Le Geyt from the United Kingdom, and BC’s Lina Augaitis and Jason Bennett, along with those who are welcoming the challenge like SUP Yukon pioneer Stuart Knaack and Whitehorse’s Stephen Wattereus, who will race in just about anything up here!
Bios for every team in the race are at: https://www.yukonriverquest.ca/yrq/app/16yrq/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 29 to witness the spectacular start and cheer this outstanding international field. The racers line up for introductions at 11:15 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 30. After some sleep, the paddlers head down Five Finger Rapid, past historic Fort Selkirk, and on to the final rest stop at Coffee Creek Kaminak for 3 hours. That gives them energy for the last 170 kms. (106 miles) to Dawson City. Teams will finish sometime between the afternoon of Friday, July 1 and Saturday, July 2 just before midnight, the official finish time for the race. An awards banquet will be held at Robert Service School on Sunday, July 3.
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 24.
The race is organized by the Yukon River Marathon Paddling Association, based in Whitehorse. Major logo-level sponsors on board for 2016 are: Kaminak Gold Corp., Whitehorse Star, Kanoe People, Air North, yukoninfo.com, Northland Beverages–Aquafina, City of Whitehorse, Up North Adventures, CKRW – The Rush, Superior Roofing and Renovation, Gold Trail Jewellers, Yukon Civil Air Search & Rescue, Yukon Wide Adventures, Coal Mine Campground, and Fireweed Helicopters.
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.
NEED MORE INFO:
RACE CONTACT: YRMPA President Harry Kern: mailto:email@example.com
MEDIA PASSES/INFO: Media Director Jeff Brady: firstname.lastname@example.org (pre- and post-race).
Jeff is racing this year with his 15-year-old son Danny, so during the race the media contact will be Elise Giordano at 907-973-2354 (email@example.com). Watch for her updates on Facebook.