Paddlers crossing Lake Laberge during the first leg of the Yukon River Quest on Jun. 26, 2019. Crystal Schick/Yukon News

Paddlers crossing Lake Laberge during the first leg of the Yukon River Quest on Jun. 26, 2019. Crystal Schick/Yukon News

YRQ paddlers can refund or defer after last-minute cancellation

After the 2021 Yukon River Quest was cancelled on the eve of the race paddlers where given options on how to proceed

The 2021 Yukon River Quest had to be cancelled on the eve of the race, June 23, because of rising water levels on the Yukon River near Carmacks.

“It was impossible for us to offer a reasonable level of safety to our racers and volunteers,” officials said.

It was the second year running the River Quest has been cancelled, first because of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the flood warning.

Forty-two teams were set to depart on the 715-kilometre journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City – three of those teams were going to do the inaugural Half Quest from Whitehorse to Carmacks.

The cancellation left the paddlers stranded, but Peter Coates, president of the Yukon River Quest said the board has met to discuss options.

“We are going to be refunding people just over half (of registration) or will let people carry forward yet another year,” said Coates.

He added that it is an either-or situation.

With the cancellation of two consecutive races, Coates said there is a huge demand in the waiting.

“We have this huge pent-up demand for next year,” said Coates. “It really makes sense to expand the race and we need to work out how we are going to do that.”

The number of boats that have been registered for these two “non-races” is over 220, said Coates.

“That is the scale of the pent-up demand,” said Coates. “We really owe it to the paddlers to cater to that pent-up demand. We need to work out how to expand and if we can expand.”

In the short-term, Coates said the board is considering another type of race for later this year – possibly the August long weekend.

No decision has been made about that race because the board didn’t have quorum at the meeting on June 23.

“It won’t be the full length of the race,” said Coates. “We need to work that through.”

Now a day removed from the cancellation, Coates said it was still a difficult decision to make.

“I’m fairly convinced it was the right decision,” said Coates. “But we’ve spent the last couple of days second-guessing ourselves. It’s been no fun at all.”

Before the two cancelled races, the Yukon River Quest was seeing record registration and boats in the water. The field had to expand to 125 and in 2019, the last race, over 115 boats started the journey.

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