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Record sized River Quest underway

A record amount of teams are on the water for the Yukon River Quest.

A record amount of teams are on the water for the Yukon River Quest.

Ninety-four teams, comprised of 236 paddles from 14 countries, hit the water for the 18th annual 715-kilometre race to Dawson City – a spectacle witnessed by hundreds on the shores in downtown Whitehorse on Wednesday at noon.

Though there are many past champions in the race, many will doubtlessly be keeping an eye on the new “experimental” division added this year: stand-up paddleboard.

Eleven paddleboarders are in the hunt for the first title, including world-class paddlers from Hawaii and the U.K., and Yukoners Stuart Knaack and Stephen Wattereus.

“The stand-up paddlers are on their way to show their stuff, and this has generated a lot of interest – since the day of the first announcement back in November,” said Harry Kern, president of the Yukon River Marathon Paddlers Association, in a news release.

“I look forward to their participation in our event as well as that of the many returning paddlers and rookies alike. I also look forward to the silencing of the naysayers as the SUPs stroke into Dawson City.”

The 94 teams – up from the previous record of 89 set in 2008 – will be chasing the midnight sun and, of course, a slice of the $35,770 race purse. The frontrunners are expected to reach the finish in Dawson sometime Friday afternoon or evening.