Competitors paddle through the slough between Mosquito Lake and the Chilkat River during the 2017 Chilkat Challenge. (Gene Cornelius/Chilkat Challenge Triathlon)

Chilkat Challenge Triathlon returns for second year of racing

‘One of our goals is to celebrate what this river means to the community’

The Chilkat Challenge Triathlon is back again this year for its second annual race in the Haines, Alaska area and this year looks to be bigger and better than the inaugural race.

Participants will paddle, bike and run approximately 63 km from Mosquito Lake along the Chilkat River all the way to Chilkat State Park during the race on July 1.

Race marshal Gershon Cohen said registration is already significantly higher than last year’s turnout of between 40 and 50 participants.

“This year, we’re already almost double that and I’m expecting by the time people finish signing up in the next few weeks we’ll probably have 100 participants,” said Cohen.

This year’s race will be longer than last year’s thanks to some route changes.

Paddlers will leave the water approximately 1.5 km sooner than last year in Klukwan, Alaska.

Construction in the village to improve the road and build a cultural centre meant the creation of an eddy that Cohen said is a good place for a transition zone.

“There is an eddy created there that is actually going to be able to accommodate more boats safely,” said Cohen. “So folks will paddle from Mosquito Lake through the slough into the Chilkat River and go down the Chilkat River to Klukwan.”

Once they reach dry land, participants will bike just more than 35 km to Fort Seward. From there, it’s a 15 kilometre run to the finish line in Chilkat State Park.

Cohen said the race, hosted by the Alaska Clean Water Advocacy, is designed to remind people how important the river is to the area.

“One of our goals is to celebrate what this river means to the community and to make sure that people understand how much a healthy river here in the Chilkat Valley means to the community,” said Cohen.

“We thought it’s great to celebrate things — it’s always a great way to reach people and get people to understand the value that things have — so we decided to put on this race a few years ago as a way to bring attention to the river and what the river provides to the community.”

Participants can compete as individuals or as teams of either two or three people.

New this year, two people will be allowed in a canoe or kayak.

How the race is split up between team members is up to each team.

“If you have a team of two people, one person can bike and run — any combination you want,” said Cohen. “You can have one person in the boat or two people in the boat, and those would be considered separate categories.”

Also new this year is the inclusion of stand-up paddleboards as an option for traversing the river.

Cohen said there haven’t been any takers yet.

“I can’t wait to see someone go down the Chilkat River on a stand-up paddleboard,” said Cohen. “That would be so cool.”

Following the race, there is an awards ceremony and banquet featuring prizes from local, regional and national sponsors.

“There will be a lot of great prizes for people who finish at the top,” said Cohen. “There is going to be food and music, so it should be a lot of fun the whole day.”

Registration for the race is open until June 15 and participants can sign up through the race’s website, www.chilkatchallengetriathlon.com.

Participants in the race are required to attend a pre-race meeting at the parade grounds in Haines the night before the race.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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