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Crowds cheer start of paddling race on Yukon River

Sunny skies and a south wind helped paddlers push off at the start of the 2023 Yukon River Quest

Standing on the start line of the Yukon River Quest on the morning of July 4, Josh Apostol’s only goal was to eventually find himself standing on a finish line.

His brother, John Apostol, was slightly more competitive. The Whitehorse siblings, 20 and 28, are in a tandem canoe sponsored by Kilrich Building Centre. John said they’ve been training five times a week, two hours at a time, for the last three months. They got in the water as soon as there was enough open water to be on it.

“We’re trying to finish in less than 50 hours,” John said.

“Finish,” Josh said, correcting him. “Finish and then whatever comes after that is a bonus.”

When the horn signalled the start of the race at Rotary Peace Park at 9 a.m., the pair had 715 kilometres ahead of them to debate it.

It’s a long time to talk. It’s also a long time to hold the lead the pair had after pushing off the shore and taking a position at the front of a pack of 57 teams.

That number is slightly down from 2022, according to Mark Kelly, communications coordinator for the race.

So too is the water level. In 2022, high water levels led to a number of records being set. There were new records in multiple categories, including men’s stand-up paddleboard, men’s solo canoe, women’s tandem canoe, men’s tandem kayak, women’s tandem kayak, women’s four-person canoe, mixed four-person canoe, half-quest and men’s four-person canoe. The latter crossed the finish line in 39:08:12, beating a record that had stood since 2008.

On the morning of July 4, the sun was out. A south wind pushed 140 paddlers. They came from countries across the globe, including Canada, the United States, Australia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The earliest paddlers are expected to come into Dawson City on the morning of July 6.

The race cut-off time is 6 p.m. on July 7.

Contact Amy Kenny at