Rivals turn teammates and win record sized Chili and Bean race

Race organizer Pat McKenna had a concern at the start of her event on Wednesday: there might not be enough chili for everyone.

Race organizer Pat McKenna had a concern at the start of her event on Wednesday: there might not be enough chili for everyone.

The Chili and Bean Downriver Race saw a record field of 25 boats, filled with over 60 paddlers, at the 14th annual event on Wednesday.

Nice weather and posts on social media helped boost numbers, said McKenna.

“One of the people involved in the race put it on Facebook. I still put posters up around town the old-fashioned way, and put the ads in the paper and on the radio,” she said.

“And I think it’s a nice day. This is a very weather-dependent race. If it’s a lovely evening with no wind, we get more people. Last year it was rainy and kind of cool, and there was only 12 boats.”

Whitehorse paddlers Robert Spinks and Jake Paleczny have the honour of winning the largest installment of the race. Paddling a tandem canoe, Spinks and Paleczny finished the 18.5-kilometre course from Rotary Peace Park to the Takhini Bridge in one hour and 19 minutes flat, about five minutes from the course record.

They crossed the finish just 25 seconds head of second place’s Bill Parry and Fearghus Vincent, who were also in a tandem canoe.

“They made a couple of bad corners, we made one or two bad corners, so we were going back and fourth, jockeying for a little bit. A little past half way we started to add a little bit of a lead and managed to hold the lead right through to the end,” said Paleczny.

“It was too close for comfort,” he added. “They made a push at the end and I thought we had a little more space than we actually did.”

The win for Spinks, 28, and Paleczny, 31, marked the end of a friendly rivalry — at least for the time being.

Spinks and fiancé Alex Jessup won the mixed tandem canoe division in the Yukon River Quest last month. Paleczny and partner Karen Mann won the same Quest division in 2015, beating Spinks and Jessup.

The couples were first and second at last year’s Chili and Beans race, with Spinks and Jessup notching the win by about a minute.

“Alex is out of town and Jake and Karen have a new baby, so I emailed Jake and asked him if he wanted to team up,” said Spinks.

“We have a bit of a friendly rivalry happening as couples. They beat us in River Quest the year before last.”

Dan Girard and 12-year-old daughter Julianne Girard placed third — also in a tandem canoe — with a time of 1:23:27.

“Another year or two and they’re going to be cleaning up,” said Paleczny.

Peter Coates was the first solo paddler in. Coates, who was in a canoe using a kayak paddle, placed fourth overall at 1:24:04.

Famed River Quest team Paddler’s Abreast was the top voyageur team and seventh overall. Lynn Rice-Rideout, Monique Levesque, Jeannie Burke, Ingrid Wilcox, Jane Haydock, Midori Kirby, Michelle Wagner and Juliann Fraser finished in 1:27:10.

Fourteen-year-old Cole Wilkie-Hobus was the only solo kayaker. He placed ninth overall with a time of 1:28:25.

With overall 60 mouths to feed at the finish line, McKenna, who placed eighth with son David Gonda in a tandem canoe, says she’ll have even more grub ready at the 15th annual race next year.

“It started as a very relaxed, downriver race and we had one pot of chili and about four boats,” said McKenna. “Now we do four different kinds of chili and baked beans and cakes and desserts.

“It’s great to see a great turnout of recreational paddlers as well as racers — and lots of families.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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