Ideal conditions for Autumn Classic paddling race

Paddlers start the Autumn Classic at the mouth of the McClintock River on Sept. 26. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Paddlers head up river during the Autumn Classic on Sept. 26. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Paddlers in the Autumn Classic travel upstream to take a token from an overhanging tree and race back to the start/finish line. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

The annual Autumn Classic canoe and kayak race on the McClintock River happened Sept. 26, with a total of 14 teams taking part.

Starting at the bridge where the Alaska Highway crosses the McClintock, racers paddled between five and six kilometres up the river to a tree overhanging the river.

Participants took a token, hung by race organizers, from the tree and paddled back to the finish at the bridge.

This year’s race was similar to previous iterations of the event, save for COVID-19 precautions preventing the usual post-race soup and hot drinks.

Weather on the day was as good as could be, according to organizer Peter Coates, with temperatures hovering around 12 C with sunny skies and a light breeze.

“We have had snow on this race in the past,” Coates said in an email. “Just how lucky we were was made clear as it started raining as we drove home.”

On the course, Bruce Porter was the fastest overall paddler finishing in one hour, 24 minutes and 48 seconds. Porter edged out Joel Girouard by one second at the finish, with Girouard finishing in one hour, 24 minutes and 49 seconds. Both Porter and Girouard competed in the solo kayak category.

Third overall and first of the tandem canoe teams was Jake and Karen Paleczny with a time of one hour, 26 minutes and 47 seconds.

Fourth overall were Brian Groves and Margo Milletta with a time of one hour, 30 minutes and 38 seconds. Groves and Milletta also finished second in the tandem canoe category.

Pam and Jim Boyde rounded out the overall top five, finishing in one hour, 31 minutes and 10 seconds. They were also third in the tandem canoe category.

Dan Girouard finished sixth overall in one hour, 31 minutes and 40 seconds.

He was the only solo canoe in the race.

The next four spots in the overall standings went to tandem canoe teams.

Seventh place went to Pat McKenna and David Gonda in a time of one hour, 37 minutes and 16 seconds.

Tori Vollmer and Veronica Porter finished eighth with a time of two hours, three minutes and 34 seconds.

In ninth place, John Tipton and Ava Irving-Staley finished the race in two hours, 11 minutes and 34 seconds.

Rounding out the top 10 were Julianne Girouard and Cole Wilkie-Hobus with a time of two hours, 11 minutes and 43 seconds.

Doon McDowell finished 11th overall with a time of two hours, 12 minutes and 33 seconds — good for third in the solo kayak category.

A further three paddlers — Matt Wilkie, Kim Hobus and Ana Hobus — also raced in solo kayaks but did not complete the course.

Coates made note, however, that the trio included the youngest solo paddler he’s ever seen in any canoe or kayak race.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at


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