Paddlers in the 22nd Yukon River Quest, or “The Race to the Midnight Sun” are inching closer to launch date.
The race will begin June 23 in Whitehorse and travel 715 kilometres (444 miles) to Dawson City. Or, new this year, paddlers could opt for the Half Quest – which will see their river journey end in Carmacks.
In all, 48 teams with 136 paddlers from the Yukon and three Canadian provinces will dip their paddles.
Before 2021, the River Quest had several record-setting years but like many things, this year’s event will look a little different. After the 2020 race was docked because of COVID-19, organizers adjusted this year’s format and scale to adhere to the pandemic guidelines.
Only Yukoners and Canadians who could meet the territory’s current visitor requirements were eligible to register.
“It was really important that the race was held this year,” says River Quest president Peter Coates.
It will be the smallest race since 2002.
“In some ways, the race has reverted to where it was two decades ago,” Coates says.
“But it’s not going to stay there. Next year is going to be in enormous demand.”
Except for 10 hours of mandatory rest, adventure and marathon paddlers race non-stop over the 715 km 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,” drawing many of the world’s best paddlers.
The noon horn will launch the paddlers, hoping for a high, fast-flowing river to give them the quick times.
After a long paddle on Lake Laberge, through the waning light of the midnight sun on the Thirtymile heritage section, it’s then on to Carmacks and the first possible rest stop at Coal Mine Campground. This year, racers have the choice to complete all, some, or none of their mandatory 10 hours of rest at Carmacks.
When ready, or if they choose to go straight on, paddlers will head down Five Finger Rapid, to the second rest stop at Minto Landing, where they can complete the balance of their 10 hours if needed, before the final
push to Dawson City. Teams will finish sometime between the afternoon of Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26 just before midnight, the official end of the race.
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The solo canoe class has two teams, one man and one woman. Boat “Gulo Gulo,” oared by Alison Eremenko is the defending women’s champion. “That’s a Paddlin’,” will be steered by Duncan Hillhouse, who’s paddling for the Yukon Humane Society.
The solo kayak class has three women, and five men teams and is full of strong paddlers.
“Golden Retriever,” Wayne Anderson of Alberta, was the 2016 and 2018 K1 champion. Mirjam Fleming of the “Victorious Secret” boat came third in the 2019 race.
Stand Up Paddleboard has three men’s teams and will have a new champion. Since the class was added, Bart de Zwart of Hawaii has ruled the class, but isn’t in the field this year.
Tandem canoe remains the most popular class. It features 15 teams, one women’s, seven mixed, and seven men’s. There are plenty of strong boats in the C2 field.
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The four-person canoe class has five teams, one each women’s and mixed and three men’s teams. The C4 class has plenty of past champions in the field and could be the betting favourite for producing this year’s overall winner.
Paddlers Abreast will have the eyes of the fans in the voyageur canoe category as they celebrate their 20th anniversary. The category has eight teams including Paddlers Abreast.
The Half Quest has seven teams — five C2, one K2, and one K1.
Once the paddlers leave Whitehorse they will have a long paddle across Lake Laberge before reaching the first possible rest stop in Carmacks.
Learn more about the race at yukonriverquest.com
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