The Yukon River Quest has reached the 100 team milestone for the first time in its short 10-year history. Last year a record 85 teams registered, and the team limit was bumped up to 100 this year.
“This is a huge accomplishment for a race that started in 1999 with just 16 teams and is now one of the great races of the world,” said Jeff Brady, race president. “Although a few other paddling marathons in the world draw more teams, ours has the allure of being the longest, the most challenging, and certainly the most beautiful.”
The 10th annual YRQ, “the race to the midnight sun,” will be held June 25-29. More than 250 paddlers are currently registered on the 100 teams, representing about 10 countries. Some will compete for the $31,000 in prize money, while most teams are after the thrill of just finishing the longest canoe and kayak race in the world, 740 kilometers (460 miles) from Whitehorse to Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon.
As of today, there are 16 voyageurs, including the Texans who won last year, a Canadian team led by Tim Hodgson of Whitehorse and Martin Bernadin of Saskatoon (using Kissynew boat that came in 2nd last year), and teams from New York and Prince Rupert, BC that were in the top 10 last year, as well as many other returning teams like Paddlers Abreast from Whitehorse, Canadians Abreast and Team Whoa from Toronto, and Maine's "Yahoos to the Yukon." New this year are a First Nations women’s team from Teslin, a Juneau-Skagway team from Alaska, and teams from Saskatchewan, Colorado and England.
The solo divisions filled back in December. The men’s solo kayak division features past champions Steve Mooney of Whitehorse and David Kelly of California. The women’s division features past champion Ingrid Wilcox of Whitehorse. The open solo canoe division, just in its second year, has four teams, including last year’s only entry, red lantern “champ” Joe Evans.
Although the field is full as of today, it will not be finalized until June 1, the final date when teams may withdraw without losing most of their entry fees. Wait lists have begun for teams that are still interested in getting a spot. Registration deadline is May 1. Visit the race website: www.yukonriverquest.com
The tandem classes will be very competitive with several returning champions including 2007 men’s canoe winners Norbert Wolverine and Lionel Campbell of Sask. and former champ Steve Landick of Michigan who will be back with a new partner. Pat McKenna and Elizabeth Bosely of Whitehorse are back to defend their women’s crown, and there will be a competitive mixed canoe field which includes the Yukon-BC team of Pauline Frost-Hanberg and Derek Crook who just missed first place last year.
Included among the canoe field are two men who have been in all 10 races, Tony Arcand of Whitehorse, and Larry Seethaler of Anchorage, Alaska.
The tandem kayaks have a truly international field. The team to watch will be Martin Dreyer and Michael Mbanjwa of South Africa who last month won the Dusi Kayak Marathon, Africa’s most prestigious race. The men’s K2 field also includes teams from England, Israel, the USA, and Canada. The mixed division appears wide open with teams from England, Denmark, South Africa and Canada. Back to break their record in the women’s K2 division are the USA team of Danise Kimball and Amy Byers.