The rule of thumb for paddling in the Yukon: if you are keeping up with Tim Hodgson, you are doing pretty darn well.
Hodgson took his fifth straight win on Saturday at the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club’s Ice Breaker Race, the club’s first lengthy race of the season held between the Marsh lake Dam and the Schwatka Lake boat launch.
Although Hodgson continued his streak, having won all four Wednesday night, 10-kilometre club races so far this season, he didn’t exactly blow away the competition.
Racing in a solo-kayak, Hodgson crossed the finish line just a boat’s length ahead of second-place finishers Jason Doucet and Kam Davies in a tandem canoe, arriving in 2 hours, 26 minutes and 33 seconds.
Making the final sprint to the finish more difficult for both boats were pails of water, splashed into the crafts while encountering some motorboats in Miles Canyon.
“We were together the whole way, and it was fun because we hit some waves in the canyon,” said Hodgson. “My boat was half full of water, so I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to sprint now because it weighs you down.’
“Every race, we’re always head-to-head. They’re fun to compete with.”
Hodgson was on the Yukon River Quest record-setting crew, Team Kisseynew, in 2008, helping set the course record in a voyageur canoe. He also won the mixed tandem canoe class – even beating out the top men’s tandem canoe – in last year’s Quest with partner Jane Vincent.
With just nine participants spread over five boats, Saturday’s race actually had less paddlers out than the club’s regular Wednesday evening meets. However, the higher turnouts on Wednesday could be the result of a new points system introduced this season that award points for both performance and participation.
“It’s actually working,” said Peter Coates, the club’s flat-water race co-ordinator. “People are actually coming to races even if they don’t feel like racing because they want the points.
“There’s not really going to be a prize (for most points) – it’s bragging rights.”
The weekly Wednesday evening races are currently taking place at Schwatka Lake, going five kilometres upriver to “the dragon”- a log protruding from the shoreline that resembles a dragon – and back. In a couple weeks the Wednesday meets will be moved to Chadburn Lake.
“As the water rises, Miles Canyon gets more difficult and it’s impossible to get up,” said Coates. “It’s foolishness to pass up (the Wednesday meets) if you’re in any of the big races. You need lots of focused river miles in be in any sort of shape to do reasonably in either the Yukon River Quest or the Yukon 360 – or if you’re crazy enough, the Yukon 1000. It’s a great opportunity to put on those training miles.”
The Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club has five more major races planned for the summer.
This year’s Yukon River Quest, a 740-kilometre canoe and kayak race from Whitehorse to Dawson City, is scheduled for June 30.
A few weeks later the Yukon 1000, the world longest paddling race from Whitehorse past Eagle, Alaska, to the Dalton Highway Bridge, will begin on July 19. An extremely challenging race, spanning 1,700 kilometres, the Yukon 1000 is only open to well experienced paddlers and outdoorsmen.
For those who like the idea of earning their grub, the Chilli and Beans Race, an 18.5-kilometre race between Whitehorse’s Rotary Park and the Takhini River Bridge, will take place August 6 and, as usual, will feature chilli and other treats at the finish line.
This year’s Yukon 360 is scheduled for August 6 on the Pelly River from Faro to Pelly Crossing. Teams from Australia have already registered for the race, which will also act as a qualifier for next year’s Yukon 1000.
“It’s 60 kilometres shorter than last year – last year was actually 360 kilometres, down the Teslin River,” said Coates. “But the snow pack in the water shed for the Pelly is 30-50 per cent of normal, so it’s going to be a really slow river. The river is not going to be doing its part of the work – you’re going to have to paddle hard.”
Wrapping up the season will be the Autumn Classic, taking paddlers up and down the McClintock River – about 15 kilometres. The race will take place on a Saturday, yet to be determined, in early September.
Ice Breaker results
1st Tim Hodgson (solo kayak) – 2:26:33
2nd Jason Doucet, Kam Davies (tandem canoe) – 2:26:36
3rd Pauline Frost, Jody Linklater (tandem canoe) – 2:31:52
4th Peter Coates, Pat McKenna (tandem canoe) – 2:42:40
5th Jessie Gladish, Andrea Curial (tandem canoe) – 3:06:56
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