Passionate paddlers pursue River Quest

Sisters Liz Bosely and Sheila Clark are self-proclaimed water women. They have a passion for paddling that has been getting stronger for many years.

Sisters Liz Bosely and Sheila Clark are self-proclaimed water women.

They have a passion for paddling that has been getting stronger for many years.

So when they signed on for this year’s Yukon River Quest, the choice of a team name was obvious.

They call themselves Tlingit Hin Sha, which translates to Tlingit water women.

Both Bosely and Clark were born and raised in the territory, and they take the title seriously.

The race itself however, well, let’s just say they want to finish in a respectable time.

The three-day journey down the river will definitely be the best part, said Bosely.

So far, 35 teams have signed on for the world’s longest canoe race. That’s halfway to the maximum of 70 teams and there’s still more than five weeks to sign up.

The race takes off from the banks of the Yukon River in Whitehorse on June 29.

From Whitehorse, vessels will travel across the notoriously rough Lake Laberge, before taking a mandatory seven-hour layover in Carmacks.

They have another mandatory three-hour layover at Kirkman Creek, 158 kilometres upriver from Dawson.

The deadline to sign on for the 740-kilometre race is May 26.

A record 51 teams competed last year, and organizers are hopeful they will surpass that in 2005. Paddlers from across Canada have  already signed on, as have those from 10 states — including Texas and Florida — Guam, Austria and the UK.

Interest in the UK has been on the rise since a BBC film crew documented the race last year.

Returning to defend his title is Marquette, Michigan’s, Steve Landick. He won the race last year in 54 hours and 27 minutes. This year, he’s paddling with a new partner, Fred Mynar of Texas. Landick also won the race in 2001.

Also back again is Yukoner Tim Hodgson. Hodgson has come second two years running and, this time around, will be paddling with fellow Yukoner Thane Phillips.

Whitehorse’s Stephen Mooney will be tackling the grueling race alone in the single kayak category, as will Joe Bishop and perennial racers Ingrid Wilcox and Linda Bourassa.

Local canoeist Lynda Campbell will join forces with Texan Ginger Turner. Tunde Fulop, Laurie Prange, Tony Arcand, Kevin Mellis, Su Green and Jenney Trapnell are the other Yukoners participating.

Bosely competed in the race last year, but had to scratch in Carmacks because her teammate was sick.

“That’s the essence of a team: if one team member goes down, you both go down,” Bosely said. “It was a little disappointed because I wanted to continue on.”

Because of their strong sisterly bond, Bosely is looking forward to the trip down river and anticipates a smooth ride.

“I think she’ll be able to anticipate when I’m going to call ‘hut’ and I think that it’s almost like you begin to think alike.

“It’s good to paddle with somebody who’s as passionate as you are and I think that my sister and I are both water people.”

Neither are competitive water racers, but growing up in Teslin, they are avid outdoorswomen.

The passion stems from growing up as citizens of the Teslin Tlingit Council, who are water people, Bosely said. And from the first time she picked up a paddle, her love of the water was instinctive.

The pair has been training on the Yukon River since mid-March.

“Having people come here from all over the world to paddle the Yukon is what makes the race so interesting,” Bosely said.

“The solitude that you face is a major challenge for some people, but for me, I thrive on it. I love it. The peace and quiet; I just like the sound of paddle hitting the water.”

 A fundraiser auction is slated for May 6th at the Backwater Lounge and will include live music. For more information go to www.yukonriverquest.com