One day into the Yukon 1000 Canoe and Kayak Race, the longest annual paddling race in the world, teams from down under are keeping on top.
Twenty-four hours after leaving Whitehorse on Monday, beginning a 1,600-kilometre trip to the Dalton Highway Bridge just past Eagle, Alaska, two Australian teams are leading the way, passing Selkirk Rock, more than 200-kilometres from the start line.
“That’s the slowest 24 hours because 50 kilometres of that is Lake Laberge,” said race organizer Peter Coates. “You have to count that 50 kilometres twice, as it were, because normally the river is doing as much work as you are.”
Leading the way is the Ausy Toms, featuring Steve Pizzey and Tom Simmat from New South Wales, Australia, about 20 minutes ahead of Team Starfactor, also of Australia.
Like last year’s first annual Yukon 1000, which was won – tied, actually – by two British teams, no Yukoners are entered.
“People here are busy during the summer and this takes two or three weeks out of someone’s schedule,” said Coates.
Although the race does not feature any local paddlers, there are a pair of Canadian teams with paddlers from Calgary and Saskatoon bringing up the sixth and seventh spots in the nine-team field, which is down from 15 last year.
“Last year was the first year and people wanted to be in the first race,” said Coates. “I know there are people who have signed up for the Yukon 360 and the River Quest to qualify for the Yukon 1000 next year.
“I don’t let unqualified teams in. They have to have done one of these other races or somehow otherwise persuade me they are safe to be let loose.”
Although solo paddlers are prevented from participating in the daunting race, the Ausy Toms are in the “buddied solo” class, paddling solo kayaks and are required to remain together through the race.
“One of classes we allow is called buddied solo – we don’t allow solo canoes or kayaks,” said Coates. “Last year there was a lot of push-back – people wanted to paddle solo. People last year at the beginning said, ‘Why didn’t you let solos in, it would be such fun.’ By the time they got to the finish line they said, ‘Peter, don’t ever let solos in.’”
This year’s Yukon 360, a qualifier for next year’s Yukon 1000, will be held Discovery Day weekend, stretching about 300 kilometres between Faro and Pelly Crossing.
For more information on the Yukon 1000 or 360, visit www.yukon1000.com.
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