The Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club floated a new idea yesterday, starting at the Marsh Lake dam.
“It’s the first annual Icebreaker,” said club race organizer Tim Hodgson, as participants zipped up their lifejackets and strapped themselves into kayaks.
“It was becoming all about one race in the Yukon — the River Quest. We wanted to mix it up a bit.”
With the big race’s blessing (in the form of $250 in prize money from the River Quest), Hodgson is hoping the Icebreaker will become an early season highlight for the paddling community.
Twenty-one paddlers put in for the 30-kilometre race, from the Marsh Lake dam to the Schwatka Lake boat launch.
Timekeeper Kevin Sinclair called the mass start, and they were off.
The early favourite was Greg McHale, gliding along in his ultra-light surfski kayak.
The surfski’s fixed rudder prevented McHale from taking any shortcuts through shallow water, but he still managed to finish 12 minutes ahead of second-place Tim Hodgson in his ‘70s-style racing canoe.
Hodgson finished a minute and a half ahead of Joe Bishop, after washriding him for the first quarter of the race, and then skipping past on a shortcut.
“That’s the most interesting thing I saw during the race … Joe Bishop getting lost,” said Hodgson with a laugh.
The trickiest part of the race was passing through a very busy Miles Canyon, where search and rescue crews were doing training exercises, the MV Schwatka was touring the tourists and pleasure boats were creating heavy wakes for the paddlers to navigate.
All but one of the 15 kayaks and canoes finished the race — Denise McHale had to pull out early after the rudder broke on her surfski kayak.
Fifty-dollar cash prizes were awarded in various categories: top male kayaker Greg McHale; first women’s canoe to finish, Liz Bosely and Pat McKenna, and first male canoe, Tim Hodgson (who donated his prize back to the purse).
Linda Bourassa was the top female kayaker. Top youth was Dylan Stewart and top “old school bathtub canoe” was the team of Jim and Lee Hawkings.
Sweeper safety kayakers Kirk Buckle, Tracey Remple and Sue Antpoehler made sure no one got left behind.
Hodgson said that many of the competitors are also in training for this year’s River Quest, which starts on June 27.
He added that more canoe and kayak club paddling races are in the works, the next one in late July, with more details pending.
1st Greg McHale, solo surfski — 2:12:58
2nd Tim Hodgson, solo canoe — 2:25:15
3rd Joe Bishop, solo sea kayak — 2:26:44
4th Ryan Martin and Dan Girourd, tandem canoe — 2:28:36
5th Liz Bosely and Pat McKenna, tandem canoe — 2:35:12
6th Jody and Bob Smallwood, tandem canoe — 2:38:52
7th Linda Bourassa, solo sea kayak — 2:39:24
8th Dylan and Bill Stewart, tandem canoe — 2:39:25
9th Rudy Sudrich, solo sea kayak — 2:51:54
10th Ingrid Wilcox, solo sea kayak — 2:58:04
11th Jim and Lee Hawkings, tandem canoe — 3:06:27
12th Jeff Brady and John O’Daniel, tandem canoe — 3:06:40
13th Christie Catania, solo sea kayak — 3:40:01
14th Paul Reichert, solo sea kayak — 3:40:01
15th Denise McHale, DNF (broken rudder)