The largest field of voyageur canoes in Yukon River Quest history was not enough to dethrone the Texans in last week’s race from Whitehorse to Dawson.
For the third straight year the Texans team was first into Dawson City, capturing their fourth title in five years (winning the 2007 Quest under the name Coureur des Bayou).
The Texas crew cruised into Dawson Friday afternoon, winning the open voyageur category with a time of 42 hours and 17 minutes, about 45 minutes short of the record set by the Kisseynew team in 2008 when the Texans came second.
“You always want to finish the race, so we accomplished that goal; win your class, we accomplished that goal; the only goal we didn’t accomplish was breaking the record,” said Texans captain Richard Ameen. “You can’t do that every time, so we’re not going home disappointed.
“We’re all still friends, so that’s a good thing. No harsh words in the boat.”
Winning the mixed voyageur category, and giving the Texans a run for their money, was Whitehorse’s Sausages&Mussels team with a time of 44:37. The Whitehorse team, which features Justin Wallace, Verena Koenig, Philippe Mouchet, Joanie Pelletier and Cynthia Corriveau, finished second overall.
“We’re pretty pleased with our performance,” said Sausages&Mussels captain Dan Girouard. “We had a great start and had the lead there for a bit.”
The gap between the two top voyageur teams could have been much more narrow.
The Texans almost “dumped it” at Rink Rapids because of a spontaneous course change.
“At the last second someone said, ‘I hear you can go through it left,’ so me and the guy at the bow – another new guy – took a hard post and turned left and hit the waves sideways,” said Texans newcomer RD Kissling, one of three new crew members.
“We were all screaming – we thought we were going to die – but we made it through, barely.
“That could have been a disaster. We had about an hour lead at the time and if we went in, by the time we would have sorted everything out, we wouldn’t have had a lead anymore.”
Sausages&Mussels had their own troubles, with Wallace developing a strained shoulder on a very turbulent Lake Laberge.
“He couldn’t paddle on one side, so we were one man short whenever he was on the left side,” said Girouard. “We got to Carmacks, re-evaluated everything, and he got some treatment done on his shoulder and decided to keep going. He felt better after Carmacks.”
Towards the end of the race, Girouard then encountered stomach problems and heartburn that prevented him from eating much.
“I was kind of weak coming into Kirkman Creek,” said Girouard. “I saw the nurse in Dawson afterwards and she told me I was the worst looking one she saw the whole time. The nurse in Kirkman was really good, helped me calm my stomach and heartburn down.”
“We’re impressed that Whitehorse, a town of 20,000, threw together a team, got in a carbon fiber boat and were only an hour behind us,” said Ameen. “That team needs to be congratulated for what they did.
“We’re going to go have some beers with them tonight.”
Taking second in the open voyageur division was Sons of Superior, an Ontario team with one Nova Scotia on-board.
As for other Yukon voyageur boats, Whitehorse’s Paddlers Abreast came first in the women’s voyageur division, fourth for voyageur canoes and 12th overall.
With some breast cancer survivors on board, the team included Whitehorse paddlers Mia Lee, Terry Neis, Ingrid Wilcox, Maralyn Rogers, Michelle Wagner, Lynn Rice-Rideout, Monique Levesque, Deb Bartlette and Asa Berg from Atlin, BC.
Taking third in the women’s voyageur division was Team Whoa, featuring four Whitehorse paddlers and one from Carcross. Whoa was 29th overall and seventh out of 11 voyageur canoes in the race.
For full coverage of Yukon teams in the River Quest, see Wednesday’s Yukon News.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org