The front runners in Yukon River Quest arrived in Dawson City, after a gruelling and tiring race.
The first boats to arrive were a C-4 (four-person canoe), a voyageur and a tandem kayak all arriving early June 24. The last of the 62 racers who completed the 715 km race arrived by 1p.m. the following day, long before the usual 9 pm shutdown.
Coming in first position overall was the team Something Else Entirely, a half-local four-man canoe team. They broke, not only the record for their class, but also the overall race record which had been long-held by the voyeur team, Kisseynew, since 2008.
Sebastien Courville, Mike De Abreu, Robert Spinks, Eric Braul clocked themselves doing 27 km per hour during the sprint to the finish in front of the crowds in Dawson City.
Their team led the race from Carmacks and arrived in Dawson in 39 hours, eight minutes, also slicing six hours off the record for their class from 2019; a record set by a team with two of the same members.
De Abreu was more than tired. His hip flexors had given out on him and he could not hold himself upright in the canoe. He collapsed flat out after the finish. In Minto he had experimented with different ways to prop himself upright, but none worked well. His teammates said he’s a tough guy, and he kept paddling but really struggling to sit up. They joked about bringing a flat and laid out body into Dawson. Sebastian Courville told the News that finally they looped a rope around his back and anchored each end to the canoe well in front of him so he could not fall backwards. It worked and their team broke three records. It was a thin rope and he has the rope burns across his back to prove it.
After the race he estimated that the C-4 paddling technique required about 10,000 single leg lifts for which he realized he wasn’t quite prepared.
Second and third overall finishers stayed neck-and-neck throughout the race, with a six-person voyageur team racing a two-man kayak team, with each team changing places several times.
At the finish, the voyageur team crossed the line one second faster than the kayak, finishing in 40:05:43 and 40:05:44 respectively.
Dubbed Team Pagunpogo, the second-place team of Crispin Studer, Shane Orban, Steve Ramsay, Tim Heaton, Wally Duncan and James Apetagon hail from across Canada. Although they were fast, the 2008 record by Kissynew voyageur still stands.
The two-man Estonian kayak team of Andres Kaju and Indrek Kermon, coming in third overall, set a new race record for their boat class. The record they beat had held since 2006.
The women’s team tandem kayak team from Estonia also set a new record in their class. This means that the two Estonian kayak teams now hold both the men’s and woman’s record for tandem kayak. They were sponsored and supported by an Estonian kayak company whose URL was the name of the men’s team. They had a full entourage of media and photographers along on the trip.
Hachet Lake voyageur team
A men’s voyageur team from Hachet Lake, Saskatchewan pulled in about an hour-and-a-half later, drummed in by their support team and family, which included the Chief and Vice-chief of their First Nation. This was their second year in the Quest.
They had driven all the way from North Saskatchewan in four vehicles— a van, two trucks and an SUV.
At Minto, most of the voyageur boats would stay in the water, tying up along the shore, but the Hatchet Lake support crew wanted to wash and clean out the boat, so with the entire team speaking Denesuliné, they lifted and carried it up the bank, and placed it near the kayaks where that group was speaking Estonian.
The team members went to sleep and the News spoke with Chief Bart Tsannia from Hachet Lake First Nation and lead hand on the support crew.
Tsannia explained that has been chief for 13 years, and his first nation of 2,000 members (1,500 in community) is 80 to 90% fluent in Denesuliné and English is their second language. He credits the fact that there are no roads into their community, and that their caribou herd is healthy so they can take their youngsters out on the land, and continue their language, their culture and their way of life. They are lake people and with the late spring the team did not get much training time in this year.
”To tell you the truth. These boys been paddling five or six days before coming down here, because of the lateness of the ice. We don’t have the river like this here, ” he said.
Their team had probably the largest contingent of support with aunties and drummers and boatsmen who helped everywhere.
Team Quickblade (C-4), a truly international crew hailing from Australia, Alaska, California and Hawaii, arrived in a boat made especially for the race — a custom wood canoe, built in 2020 by the same company that makes the paddles that most of the competitors were using. The team arrived after 43 hours of paddling. Maika Scott, Jim Terrell, Travis Grant, and Ethan Palmer came together after meeting on the international event circuit around the world and hearing tales from others who had done the Quest before.
Jim Terrell, is a four-time Olympian in canoeing and founder of Quickblade Paddles. He designed and built the wood strip boat by hand in California for the 2020 Quest race (later cancelled). He said the boat absolutely excelled on the lake, and in headwinds it was able to walk away from most boats on the lake, but on the river, he had to admit, the carbon fibre boats slipped past them. The beauty custom-made C-4 is up for sale.
The 5 o’clock rush
The finish line got crowded around 5 p.m. with five different boats arriving within minutes of each other. The Soggy Bottom Boys, Colin Abbot and Mattias Purdon from Whitehorse, finished sixth overall and first in their class (tandem canoe and men’s tandem canoe) in 43:13:36. They also took home the award for top team will a full slate of Yukon members.
Delta Heat, a mixed C-4 team from Inuvik, arrived in seventh overall and took first place in their class. They now hold a new Quest record of 43:17:01 for a mixed C-4, breaking the previous record held since 2008.
The team is the McDonald family — Kendall, Nichole, daughter Mackenzie and friend, Brandon Johnston. Though they had very little training time since the ice only went out in Inuvik a few weeks ago, they arrived looking healthy and strong.
Linda Tetsmann and Anette Baum from Estonia were in this crowd; they set the record they were looking for in the women’s tandem kayak, arriving in 43:44:39. HUUM SAUNA is one of the four teams from Estonia and set a record in their class, taking almost three hours off the previous record.
Jeff Brainard quietly wove his kayak Wunnumnut to the shore in Dawson amongst the other finishers. He was the first solo padder to arrive. He was first in his class in a solo kayak in 44:10:35. Brainard, aged 60, has competed in five previous races and makes the trek to the Yukon from Ontario.
Thomas de Jager from Whitehorse and Gus Oliveira from Saltspring Island, B.C. teamed up with the name Yukon Wide Adventures, and came in 10th overall and second in the men’s tandem kayak with a time of 44:31:00.
Paddleboard record smashed
By 10 p.m., three paddleboarders had made it to Dawson City, all breaking the previously held record by Bart de Zwart. Lincoln Dews, a world champion paddleboard racer in 2018 and 2019 came in 20th overall. He was the first of the bunch coming in two hours ahead of Davide Cina and Jason Bennett. He placed third as a solo paddler, beaten by two men in solo kayaks. He placed first in the men’s SUP. His time was 47:46:32, shattering the old record by over 4 hours. Dews, hailing from Queensland Australia, was essentially “a sprinter” coming into the race. The day after the race he said that the races he had won as part of his world title were short with the longest race only four hours long, so the River Quest was “a completely different challenge.”
He only stopped for the two scheduled breaks but said he strictly followed a schedule of paddling for an hour and sitting for a minute. In that minute he would rest, eat and hydrate. He followed that regime for the entire 47 hours. Accustomed to longer distance yacht racing he was good at managing food, but for this race he took more whole fruits and nuts than was usual to avoid high sugars.
The paddleboarders had an easier time through five fingers rapids than the larger boats since it was easier for them to right themselves and carry on.
Five finger rapids challenged far more boats than usual this year, with one in seven boats capsizing. Rescue boats were on hand and assisted people in trouble.
The final River Quest standings were as follows:
Mens SUP NEW RECORD
1 – Lincoln Dews (Lincoln Dews) 47:46:32
2 – Halfway to Cina (Davide Cina) 49:28:11
3 – Standing Room Only (Jason Bennett) 50:23:54
1 – Type 2 Fun (LouAnne Harris) 62:36:12
2 – Shara Dubeau (Shara Dubeau) 65:34:50
Mens solo canoe NEW RECORD
1 – Half a Perfect Storm (Gaetan Plourde) 47:59:34
2 – Doggy Paddle (Matthew Smith) 59:47:00
Mens solo kayak
1 – Wunnumut (Jeff Brainard) 44:10:35
2 – Golden Retriver (Wayne Anderson) 45:43:00
3 – Estonian Vikings (Mart Reimann) 48:46:32
Womens solo kayak
1 – Victorious Secret (Mirjam Fleming) 53:43:02
2 – Rough Cut Diamond (Patricia Jones) 55:46:34
Mens tandem canoe
1 – Soggy Bottom Boys 43:13:36
2 – Spirit of the Yukon 44:36:28
3 – Calgary Canoe Club 45:42:20
Womens tandem canoe NEW RECORD
1 – Love of Paddling 47:43:24
2 – The Girls Next Door 56:51:23
Mixed tandem canoe
1 – The Bickersons 46:18:53
2 – Mennonites Don’t Tip 50:49:31
3 – Fermentation Vessel 53:43:17
Mens tandem kayak NEW RECORD
1 – www.tyreorder.com Elite Team 40:05:43
2 – Yukon Wide Adventures 45:01:00
3 – World of Kayaks Team Estonia M&M 50:20:16
Womens tandem kayak NEW RECORD
1 – Huum Sauna 43:44:39
Mixed tandem kayak
1 – Schaay Ventures 47:39:15
2 – RBA 62:28:13
Mens four-person canoe NEW RECORD
1 – Something Else Entirely 39:08:12 (new overall race record)
2 – Team Quickblade 43:13:04
Womens four-person canoe NEW RECORD
1 – Every Child Matters 50:23:11
2 – Sea Wings 57:22:08
Mixed four-person canoe NEW RECORD
1 – Delta Heat 43:17:01
2 – VIP Bucket List 46:25:05
1 – Pagunpogo 40:05:43
2 – Hatchet Lake 42:35:37
3 – Buckwheat’s Howlers 46:40:05
1 – High Voltage 54:17:00
Half Quest NEW RECORD
1 – Eddyline (mens tandem canoe) 24:38:54
2 – Paddlers Abreast (womens voyageur) 25:00:40
3 – Crisis and the Commando (mixed tandem kayak) 26:07:11
Contact Lawrie Crawford at email@example.com