More than a dozen countries represented in “Race to the Midnight Sun”
The race roster is set for the 14th annual Yukon River Quest, which will begin on Wednesday, June 27 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. This year’s field will feature 69 teams with 188 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.
Thirteen countries are represented in the 2012 field: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Norway, South Africa, and the United States.
The number of teams is down slightly from last year’s starting roster of 73 teams, but there are actually four more paddlers due to large number of voyageur teams, 14, entered this year.
There is a new requirement this year that all teams carry 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.
The total 2012 race purse will be $25,185 (CAD) based on a final registration of 69 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 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 2012 YRQ will have stiff competition in every category:
• Solo canoe (C1): 4 teams – Past tandem canoe runner-up Dan Cantrell of Bellingham, Wash. and Mark Fletcher of Haines Junction, Yukon have the only YRQ experience, but watch for David Hasenback of Piedmont, Missouri who has done well in the Missouri 340 and other races, and Brendan May of Ontario, who has supported the race and now is going to paddle in it.
• Solo kayak (K1): 15 men, 3 women – On the men’s side, there are a lot of veterans looking to place, including the top three from last year: Chris Spoor of British Columbia, Shawn Thrower from the United Kingdom, and iron man Heinz Rodinger from Austria. The women’s race will feature a relatively new group: Janice Mason of Victoria, who has tandem experience in the YRQ, 19-year-old Avery Burke of Ontario in her second race, and local paddler Erin Giesbrecht, who is raising money for Autism Yukon.
• Tandem canoe (C2): 13 men’s teams, 3 women’s, 7 mixed – The canoe class this year should be very competitive in all classes. In the men’s class, watch out for past C1 standouts Gaetan Plourde and Ian Mockett of Ontario, and former overall champion Steven Landick from Michigan racing with his son Connor this year. Then there’s eastern racers Terry Wescott and Chip Lorino of Maine, and Faro racer Tim Lynch with Nova Scotia partner Dave Lewis, and a host of YRQ veteran teams looking to break to the front or collect more finisher pins. In women’s canoe, the Yukon will be watching the duel between the teams of Pat McKenna/Mia Lee and Monique Levesque/Pauline Frost, but watch out for the BC-Nova Scotia team of Abby and Bev Lewis. In mixed, perennial veterans Larry Seethaler and Brenda Forsythe of Alaska and Jim and Pam Boyde of Whitehorse are back to lead the charge, along with Helen Currey and Derek Crook from BC.
• Tandem kayak (K2): 5 men’s teams, 3 women’s, 2 mixed – The men’s K2 class features another international field with paddlers from Israel, Latvia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, but watch out for local team “Men of Arms” Matt Schenck and Justin Wallace. In women’s K2 another Yukon team, “The Fascinators” Martha Taylor/Ali Morham, look solid along with the Bend, Oregon team of Pam Stevenson/Karen Holm. In mixed, it will be “Hall or Nothing” from Canada/UK going up against “Black Berta” from Latvia.
• Voyageur canoe (VC): 4 in the open class; 5 women’s, and 5 mixed teams. With perennial favorite “The Texans” staying home this year, the VC overall title is up for grabs with competition in all classes. The open men’s class will feature “Down Under Dogs” from Australia, “Team Such a Blast” from California, and two teams from Great Britain under the banner “Interserve London Irish” that are raising funds for “Help for Heroes,” a charity to help those wounded in Britain’s current conflicts. The women’s class will feature Yukon favorite “Paddlers Abreast” for the 12th year raising money for breast cancer research, and two other teams with formidable local and Canadian paddlers, “Team WHOA” and “Skirting Disaster.” Also watch out for “Outward Bound Canada” from Ontario-BC and the “South Pacific Pirates” from Australia. The mixed VC class is always fun to watch. Watch out for the Japanese-Yukon “Team EcoChallenge” and team’s with less serious names: the “River City Pirates” from Alberta, the “Crazy Gull and Buoys” from Ontario, “Skaha ha ha ha” from BC, and local team “The Unsinkables” led by bagpiper Ken Mulloy, the oldest paddler in the race at age 80, and 18-year-old Christine Paradis, who shares the honor of being the youngest paddler in the race. Another 18-year-old, Lucas Moore of Kanata, Ontario is paddling with his dad Jeff in the tandem canoe division.
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 27 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 steam whistle 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 29 and Saturday June 30 just before midnight, the official finish time for the race.
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 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 25.
The race is organized by the Yukon River Marathon Paddling Association, based in Whitehorse. Major logo-level sponsors on board for 2012 include the Whitehorse Star, Kanoe People, Air North, yukoninfo.com, Northland Beverages–Aquafina, City of Whitehorse, Up North Adventures, Cruise Canada RV Rentals, 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.
RACE CONTACT: YRMPA President Carl Rumscheidt: email@example.com
MEDIA PASSES/INFO: YRQ Media Coordinator Jeff Brady: firstname.lastname@example.org