And they’re off!

The race to the midnight sun is underway. Almost 60 boats hit the water for the 17th annual Yukon River Quest on Wednesday at Rotary Peace Park in Whitehorse.

The race to the midnight sun is underway.

Almost 60 boats hit the water for the 17th annual Yukon River Quest on Wednesday at Rotary Peace Park in Whitehorse.

With sunny skiers, little wind and calm waters on Lake Laberge – the first big obstacle for racers – the 715-kilometre race to Dawson City was off to a “boring” start, from an organizer’s perspective.

“Everything is going well, the lake is calm, the wind is almost none existent. It’s not too hot, not too cold,” said Quest president Harry Kern, four hours into the race. “It’s just boring. The race is just too good. It’s all good news. It’s the exact opposite than last year, where we had quite a storm out here and lots of waves.”

A total of 12 countries are represented in this year’s race, as well as nine Canadian provinces and territories. There are 10 voyageur canoes paddling towards Dawson, up from eight last year. Also in the mix are 19 tandem canoes, 17 solo kayaks and nine tandem kayak teams.

Montana’s David Hutchison and Ontario’s Bob Ross, in a tandem kayak, were the first to reach Carmacks Thursday morning at 8:12 a.m. Hutchinson won the solo kayak division last year and placed second overall.

Ontario tandem canoe team of Gaetan Plourde and Jeff Brainard came into Carmacks 16 minutes behind. Plourde and Brainard are both past solo champs and are definitely ones to watch.

With the Yukon River running a little low and slow this year, the first boats are expected to reach the finish Friday evening.

Contact Tom Patrick at

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