Racers run to their boats at the start of the race. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News)

Eyeing record books, 88 teams set out on Yukon River Quest

A strong tailwind has paddlers setting a quick pace to Carmacks

It’s been five years since the Yukon River Quest record book has needed editing. A strong tailwind at the start this year’s race might help end the record drought.

The first boat reached the Carmacks checkpoint Thursday morning with the fastest time in five years in the 19th annual race that started at noon in Whitehorse June 28.

The boat — one of 17 voyageur canoes in this year’s race — is that of team Yukon Wide Adventures, which includes Whitehorse Stephen Mooney, a past solo kayak winner and former race president.

“This is a great race and it brings a lot of people together from multiple countries,” said Mooney at the start line. “People do this race for a lot of different reasons. This year we’re jumping in a voyageur — Yukon Wide Adventures — with four other kayakers who have all competed against each other and now we’re paddling together. We’ve got one single-blader who has experience and the rest are rookie single-bladers, but it’s all good.”

Good indeed. Yukon Wide Adventures reached Carmacks at 7:16 a.m. on Thursday with a 38-minute lead over U.K. tandem kayak team “Numbnuts” in second place. A tandem canoe team from California arrived third almost an hour back of Yukon Wide Adventures, which includes Whitehorse’s Thomas de Jager, B.C.’s Gus Oliveira, Calgary’s Wayne Anderson, Calgary’s Pat McLellan, and Montana’s Dave Hutchison, who last year took second overall and first in men’s solo kayak.

A total of 88 teams representing 13 countries set out on this year’s 715-kilometre race from Whitehorse to Dawson City, which is billed as the longest annual canoe and kayak — and for a second year standup paddleboard — race in the world.

At press time two teams, including Whitehorse paddleboarder Stuart Knaack, had scratched from the race.

This year’s race has a purse of $37,632. The course record is 39 hours, 32 minutes and 43 seconds, set by a voyageur team in 2008.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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