It was a race for glory, honour and, as it turned out, a race to finish before all the caribou chili was eaten.
“Caribou all the way—I’m in the Yukon,” said racer Tim Hodgson, when asked which of the three kinds of chili he was going to fill his bowl with.
On Monday, the Yukon River was a racetrack once again as 12 teams and solo paddlers took part in the ninth annual Chili and Bean Downriver Race from Whitehorse to the Takhini River Bridge.
For the second year in a row the race was won by paddlers in a tandem canoe.
Cam Davies and Jason Doucet, first-time competitors who moved to Whitehorse just four months ago from Kamloops, BC, took first, outpacing second-place Hodgson in a solo canoe by just 28 seconds.
Surprisingly Davies and Doucet are not just new to the territory, they are relatively new to canoeing.
“We’re more kayakers,” said Doucet. “We got a dog and got into canoeing—(our dog) doesn’t like the kayak. Last year we started marathon canoe racing so here we are.
“I’ve done kayak races in the past, but here people are canoeing a lot more so we mix it up.”
The winning duo finished the 18.5-kilometre course in 1:24:15 racing in a boat lent to them by Hodgson. In fact, three of the first five boats across the finish line belonged to Hodgson.
“I was teasing some people that we should call this Tim’s Canoe Club,” said Hodgson.
“I get to eat their chili,” he added jokingly, “or race with them—that’s more important.”
Hodgson won last year’s race in a tandem canoe with Dan Girard. The previous year, also with Girard, Hodgson finished second behind Greg McHale who set the course record of 1:13 in a solo kayak.
Hodgson also paddled in the fastest Yukon boat in this year’s Yukon River Quest with fellow Whitehorse resident and former cross-country Olympian Jane Vincent. They finished the Quest fifth overall and first for canoes—even outperforming the men’s tandem canoe field.
“(Vincent) is guiding in the bush, otherwise we would have raced tandem,” said Hodgson. “It would have been nice to have Jane behind me, to keep us straight, because I like to just paddle.”
For almost the entire race the two top boats were ahead of the field, exchanging leads in a neck-and-neck battle.
“We were back and fourth the whole way, chatting with them,” said Hodgson. “I was calling huts for them—trying to confuse them.
“You call ‘hut’ to switch (sides paddling). So sometimes I’d call hut to see if she would hut for me instead of him. She did pretty good—she didn’t listen to me.
“I was saying to them, if I put together a voyageur canoe (for the River Quest) I want those two.”
It was not the first time Davies and Doucet encountered Hodgson, finishing second behind Vincent and him in the Ice-Breaker race at the start of the season. They may have even crossed paths before then, a couple years ago in the River Quest.
“We came here two years ago to do the River Quest in a mixed kayak,” said Doucet. “Now we’re thinking about doing it next year in a canoe.”
Not every paddler in the race was pushing for a top spot. Racing in a tandem canoe, Danielle Sheldon and Julie Dufresne figuratively brought in the red lantern, coming in at 2:22:16, just over a half hour after the second-last-place team.
“(Our strategy) was to enjoy nature and the landscape,” said Dufresne. “Chilling together and relaxing.”
“We just sort of floated and took some pictures,” added Sheldon, who was in a canoe for just her third time ever.
“It’s a fun race put on to encourage people to come out and paddle and get some exposure to marathon paddling,” said race organizer (and chili chef) Pat McKenna, who finished fourth in a tandem canoe with Liz Bosely. “It’s to keep people paddling and thinking about the next race.
“We call it a chili and beans race to make it more fun for people—a little more recreational.”
So far Sheldon and Dufresne are unsure about entering next week’s Yukon 1000, a 1,600-kilometre race from Whitehorse into Alaska.
“Maybe next year,” they said.
1st Cam Davies/Jason Doucet
(C-2 mixed) – 1:24:15
2nd Tim Hodgson (C-1 men)
3rd Cindy Fraser/Steve
Mooney (C-2 mixed) – 1:29:31
4th Liz Bosely/Pat McKenna
(C-2 women) – 1:33:09
5th Dan Girouard (C-1 men)
6th Jim Boyde(C-1 men) –
7th Matt Landry (K-1 men) –
8th Peter Coates (C-1 men) –
9th Rene Lapierre (K-1 men)
10th Sally Macdonald/Bob
Zimmerman (C-2 mixed) –
11th Molly Dischner/Jeff Brady
(C-2 mixed) – 1:51:53
12th Danielle Sheldon/Julie
Dufresne (C-2 Women) – 2:22:16
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