Yukon River Quest Paddle Race
Right on the heels of the Race to Alaska, the Yukon River Quest kicks off today in Whitehorse, Yukon. Billed as the world’s longest canoe and kayak race, paddlers will race 444 miles to Dawson City. (Note: The Race to Alaska is 750 miles but it includes all kinds of non-motorized craft, including sailboats, whereas the YRQ is just paddle craft, including SUPS.)
95 teams are registered to start the YRQ, including eight SUPs. UK powerhouse and Women’s 24 hour distance record holder Joanne Hamilton-Vale and Men’s 24 hour distance record holder Bart de Zwart will be on the starting line, along with Peter Allen, Emily Matthews, Stuart Knaack, Carmen Merkel, Jason Bennett, and Chris Christie.
Each team will have trackers and you can follow their progress here.
Here’s a bit of what racers can expect, from the preamble of the official race rules:
“The Yukon River Quest has a rich heritage dating back to the centennials of the 1897-1899 Klondike Gold Rush. Known as “The Race to the Midnight Sun,” it is run at a time of year when the northern sky does not get dark, allowing paddlers the unique experience of being on the river 24 hours a day. The journey takes paddlers through the traditional territories of several Yukon First Nations, who used the river for many years before the gold rush stampeders came into the country and changed the land forever. The river, however, is much the same as it was when traditional First Nation canoes and later sternwheelers plied it in previous centuries. It is a wild river that draws people from around the world.
The Yukon River Quest is not your typical adventure trip down the river. It is a wilderness paddling race. Paddlers should anticipate that they may spend many hours at a time out of sight of any other boat or living person. The Yukon River has very few road access points, and very few people live along its banks. Teams should be aware that however good they are at paddling, things can and do go wrong: damaged shoulders, overused wrists, blistered hands, exhaustion, cooler temperatures and rain-induced hypothermia, heatpromoted hyperthermia, or just getting tired. Teams should be equipped so they are self-sufficient for a couple of days if necessary.”
Last year’s race in the SUP division was won by de Zwart.
Photos by Harry Kern