Four Brits to fundraise with Yukon River trip

Four Englishmen are hoping to raise millions for worthy causes with a canoe trip down the Yukon River over the coming months.

Four Englishmen are hoping to raise millions for worthy causes with a canoe trip down the Yukon River over the coming months.

Starting in Atlin, BC, on June 10, the four paddlers hope to navigate their way to Alaskanuk, Alaska, over a period of roughly 60 days, traveling 3,185 kilometres – the entire length of the Yukon River.

“We’re trying to get it down to 50 days, but we’ve given ourselves 60,” said team member Jay Ratchford. “We plan to get enough supplies to get us to Dawson, and then in Dawson restock enough to Alaska. We’ll also be living off the land. There’s plenty of salmon in the river, I know that.”

The two charities the team hopes to raise $1 million each for have special significance to the paddlers.

Team leader Nick Hunter’s father passed away from cancer last year and was aided by Marie Curie Cancer Care, one of the charities, which helps people dying of cancer and other terminal illnesses.

“That’s where it was all born from,” said Ratchford. “Nick’s uncle (Geoff Hunter) was the first person to canoe around Great Britain and Iceland, so canoeing is in his family blood.”

Team member and former British Special Forces officer Tom Raper helped inspire another charity with his military background. Also set to benefit from the trip is Help for Heroes, a British based charity that helps care for more than 3,000 British troops injured in Afghanistan and other conflicts.

“I think the hardest thing will be getting your head around being away from family and such for such a long period of time,” said Hunter. “And being with the same bunch of people, we’re going to get on each other’s nerves. It’s going to be a massive mental challenge, as well as a physical challenge.”

Making up the fourth member of the team is Ratchford’s twin brother Darryl.

All four paddlers have a wealth of outdoor and paddling experience, however, the trip will nonetheless be by far the longest any of the four have attempted.

“We’ve all paddled before and we’re all into extreme sports, whether it be rock climb, ice climbing, skiing, snowboarding,” said Ratchford. “So we’ve done a lot of outdoor activities, but we’ve never done the 2,000 miles that we’re about to.

“All of us are so excited about it.”

Though not attempting to surpass a record time, the four do hope to get into the record books, at least to set a time for others to beat in the future.

“It’s obviously done by loads of people over the years, but no one has ever registered it with the Guinness Book of Records,” said Ratchford. “For anyone else who wants to do it, it’s a benchmark.”

If the charities are not inspiration enough when the going gets tough, perhaps a couple big names pulling for them will be.

“We wrote to the Queen and she wrote back to us,” said Ratchford. “She basically signed and wrote, ‘You have our support. And best wishes.’”

In addition to the Her Majesty, famous British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who has climbed Mt. Everest three times, has expressed his support of the expedition. The Guinness Book of Records lists Fiennes as “the world’s greatest living explorer.”

“We can’t wait to get over. We all love Canada – Canada is a fantastic country,” said Ratchford. “If we could, I think we’d all move over there in a blink of an eye.”

As for wildlife, such as bears?

“We have to try and stay well away from them,” said Ratchford. “We can’t get bear-spray in the UK, so we’ll have to get all that when we get to Whitehorse.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com