Friday, June 29, 2007

Yukon River Quest
The Indy 500 of Paddle Racing

Each year the annual Yukon River Quest is held towards the end of June. It is a 3 day boat race from Whitehorse to Dawson City. The rules are simple, paddle as fast as you can for 3 days. There are several categories for folks to enter. The race is, howver, limited to just 85 boats. There is a mandatory 7 hours rest break in Carmacks (just over the halfway point). We chatted with folks from Australia, England and even locals who were doing the race… even folks from Bellingham Washington.

This team was serious, comprised of about 8 paddlers from Bellingham, Wa and folks from Texas. Their homemade craft came in at over 30 feet in length. Made of Kevlar and carbon fiber, they are a team to be reckoned with.

We toured the “pre-race” pit area where paddlers were making final preparations to their boats and gear.

Whoa… what’s this? We took this as a good omen for our 2 week expedition. We must look them up after the race.

The start of the race begins on Main Street. Racers line-up and run to their boats, ala LeMans style. The pre-race ceremonies where all the racers are introduced along with speeches by sponsors and city officials happen here. It really had that small town feel.

At 12:30 p.m. (GPS time) THE’RE OFF!

The goal here is not to get injured before arriving at your boat. There are a lot of miles to paddle and getting injured on Main Street before getting into your boat would be detrimental to the final objective.

Team BAB (The Big-Ass-Boat team as we called them) were the first out of the chute. They wasted no time in taking the lead. Their rhythm and timing seemed to be perfect.

Yet, there were others who take the race as a personal challenge to just finish in 3 days.

Watercrafts of all types and classes were there. Canoes, kayaks, double kayaks, homemade boats, etc…
We wished them all luck from the shore. In a couple of days we will follow. It will take us 2 weeks.

It was great to see and talk with racers from all walks of life. Perhaps the most interesting was the team from England who had a paraplegic and a blind man on their team. The race isn’t done for the money (the prizes are small). Most raise money for charities while many, do it just for the personal challenge. Someday, perhaps, we may join them.