Field set for 17th annual Yukon River Quest

Pre-race tally has 58 teams from 12 countries entered in “Race to the Midnight Sun”

Starting ceremonies at the 2011 Yukon River Quest. This year's race begins June 24. Photo: John Kennedy

Starting ceremonies at the 2011 Yukon River Quest. This year’s race begins June 24. Photo: John Kennedy

PRESS RELEASE: The race roster is set for the 17th annual Yukon River Quest, which will begin on Wednesday, June 24 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. This year's field will feature 58 teams with 155 paddlers from all over the world.

Twelve countries are represented: Australia, Canada (9 provinces/territories), France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States (10 states).

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.

A voyager canoe team in the 2011 Yukon River Quest. Photo: John Kennedy

A voyageur canoe team in the 2011 Yukon River Quest. Photo: John Kennedy

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.

The total possible 2015 race purse will be $21,541 (CAD) based on a final registration of 59 teams as of May 15 (one solo kayak team has withdrawn since that date). 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.

Who to Watch on the River

As in 2014, there are very few returning champions in this year's race, which means most classes are up for grabs. This is another year where any number of different craft could emerge as the overall winner. Here's a breakdown by class:

Solo canoe (C1): 3 teams – Pick 'em! Two racers in this class have some YRQ experience. Manitoban Robert Fontaine (North of 55) finished in fourth place in this class in 2014 and has a lot of voyageur racing experience all over Canada, while younger Bradley Magnuson of Whitehorse (Rock Solid Drilling) raced in a respectable Yukon voyageur team in 2010.  Bryan Allemang of Ontario (Gold Oariented) has some short races under his belt but only a few day trips up north. This is a tough class and all will be happy to get to Dawson.

Solo kayak (K1): 17 teams (16 men, 1 woman )–  Last year's runner-up in this class, Whitehorse paddling guide Thomas de Jager (Vini Vedi Vici), is the early favorite, but he will be chased by the third place finisher in K1 last year, Wayne Anderson (Akita) from Alberta. They finished just over an hour apart. Also watch out for 3-time YRQ racer Shawn Corrigan (Paddling Forward) of Manitoba, who finished third in this class with a fast time in 2012, and Japanese marathon paddler Yoshiki Higo. In this class from Great Britain are four solo paddling military veterans under the banner Cockleshell Endeavor, raising money for the UK charity: Care After Combat. Also on a mission is Mike Harlow (Pepper For CFC) of Inuvik, NWT, who will aim to "get to the race in one piece…and finish what I started in 2013". That was the year he crashed his car en route to the race. Safe journey, Mike! The only woman in the field is 2012 veteran Erin Giesbrecht (Erinfroglady) of Whitehorse. Watch out gentlemen.

Tandem canoe (C2): 19 teams (8 men's teams, 2 women's, 9 mixed) – The men's class will feature the past two solo champions in the same canoe. Gaetan Plourde and Jeff Brainard (Perfect Storm) of Ontario are an early favorite to take the overall title, but will certainly see a challenge from the K2 or VC division and possibly within C2. The Irish team of Dara Lundon and Brian Kelly (Celtic Warriors) and the Hungarian team of Doctors Istvan Munch and Kristof Szam (Hungarian Ember) look game along with Ontario racers Mike DeAbrew and Tom Phillips (Strokes of Genius) and the Alberta team of John Little and Ron Sorokin (Lazing Paddles XI). Little is back for his 11th YRQ.  The mixed canoe division has the strong Yukon-BC veteran team of Pauline Frost and Derek Crook, along with the UK's Sara Wallis and Dan Able with a great name (Paddle Faster, I Hear an Argument), and an Ontario media team (Canoeroots) with the magazine's editor Kaydi Pyette and partner Geoff Whitlock.  It's a two-team race in women's canoe between sisters Shari and Melissa Valja (Vellamo) of Ontario and the Canada-USA pair of Rumi Kodamo and Rhiannon Bronstein (Too Tall for Y'all) from Prince Rupert, BC and Seattle, Washington.

Tandem kayak (K2): 9 teams (1 men's teams, 5 women's, 4 mixed) – Last year's second overall finisher and solo kayak champ David Hutchinson of Montana is back this year with a partner, Bob Ross of Ontario, who took fifth in K1 back in 2012. They should be in a race with two former K1 champs from BC, Gus Oliveria and Chris Spoor  (Bald and Sexy). Oliveira was a co-champ paddling in with Whitehorse's Steve Mooney in 2013, while Spoor won K1 in 2012. The mixed field looks wide open with the experienced team of Josh Friedman and Julie Kirk of Idaho (Spirit of America) back for another run, the German team of Birgit Fischer and Wolfram "Charlie" Schleicher (Yukon Gold Rush), and others. In women's K2, Laura Maclean and Lisa Brougham of BC (Alpine Start) will face a challenge from two European teams of paddlers from the Netherlands and France (NIGOR Parula and NIGOR Guam) who are paddling for 4WOMEN4WATER at water.org.

Voyageur canoe (VC): 10 teams (4 women's, 5 mixed teams, and one men's open team). The big numbers are back in the big boats, which should be led by last year's third overall team and VC champ Ts'alvit captained by Whitehorse's Jim Boyd. Aside from his wife Pam, this is a totally new team but with an experienced crew including past women's C2 champs Pat McKenna and Liz Boseley, Mia Lee, Justin Wallace and Andre Paul. They should be chased by the Skagway, Alaska team Alfred E. Paddlers (new name) that gave the Yukon team a run early in last year's race. Captained by Cory "Hightower" Thole of Packer Expeditions fame, it includes Dyea to Dawson race veterans Cynde Adams and Dennis Bousson, and some strong young paddlers in A.J. Conley, Josh Gold and Dirk Foss. Their name is derived from the Colorado cannibal Alfred E. Packer, but it is not known what is on their menu. The only men's team, Ontario's Yukon Do It, will have to make a run for the overall VC title with no one else in its class. In women's voyageur, Team 3-2-1 Go from all over North America could be tough along with Whitehorse's Tough Birches and the First Nations team CAP. Back this year are veteran teams Paddlers Abreast and WHOA, who exemplify the good will that this race is all about.

Bios for every team in the race, are athttp://www.yukonriverquest.ca/yrq/app/15yrq/teams.php