It was their race to lose. Team Yukon Wide Adventures approached the finish of this year’s Yukon River Quest with a sizable lead and they knew the win was theirs, provided disaster didn’t strike.
“When we woke up in Coffee Creek and found out they were an hour and a half behind us, we thought, ‘OK, we got this. If we just don’t flip or screw up, we’ll win this race,’” said Whitehorse’s Stephen Mooney.
Yukon Wide Adventures took first overall, reaching the finish in Dawson City late afternoon on June 30 in the 19th annual race that started in Whitehorse June 28.
The voyageur team, which includes Whitehorse’s Thomas de Jager, B.C.’s Gus Oliveira, Calgary’s Wayne Anderson, Calgary’s Pat McLellan, and Montana’s Dave Hutchison, finished with a time of 42 hours, 47 minutes and eight seconds — a little over three hours from the course record.
With Mooney and de Jager aboard, it was the first time there was a Yukon presence in the overall winning boat since Faro paddler Tim Lynch and Nova Scotia’s Dave Lewis won in 2013. It’s also the first time a voyageur canoe won overall since 2012.
McLellan was the only race rookie in the boat. The other five have numerous Quests under their belts — all in kayaks — with some wins. Hutchison took second overall and first in men’s solo kayak last year and was in the overall winning boat — a tandem kayak — in 2015. Mooney and Oliveira tied for first in solo kayak in 2013.
“Everyone is doing fine. The butts are a little sore from sitting in those seats for that period of time, but we’re all feeling pretty good,” said Mooney. “We’re all used to that pain — kayakers are used to that pain. With a voyageur there’s not as much pain.”
U.K.’s Shaun Thrower and Steve King, who won in 2014, placed second overall in their tandem kayak with a time of 44:38:51.
California’s Carter Johnson and Dave Jensen placed third overall in a tandem canoe at 44:38:56.
The top all-Yukon boat was Team Ts’alvit, placing sixth overall, fourth for voyageurs and second for mixed voyageurs. The Whitehorse team of Jim Boyde, Pam Boyde, Crystal Shimoon, Bryan Allemang, Midori Kirby and Peter Kirby finished in 46:21:1.
They finished two spots and about 16 minutes ahead of the top First Nations team, CAP#1, which includes Whitehorse paddlers Bruce Jobin, Joshua VanBibber, Wes Kemble, Luc Pinard, Dustyn VanBibber, William Kennedy, Old Crow’s Samantha Frost and Edmonton’s Donna Johns.
A pair of Whitehorse paddlers picked up the women’s tandem canoe title. Margo Millette and Anjeanette LeMay-Crowtz placed 26th overall with a time of 51:06:54.
Toronto’s Graham Henry was the top solo finisher at seventh overall. The 26-year-old rode his kayak into Dawson with a time of 46:33:04.
Washington State’s Kelley J. Watson was the first women’s solo kayaker, coming 29th overall at 52:15:45.
Hawaii’s Bart de Zwart defended his title in the standup paddleboard division, included for a second year. The 46-year-old finished 30th overall at 52:16:06, almost two hours quicker than his winning time from last year.
Texas’ William Siersdorfer paddled to first in the solo canoe division at 58:42:03 and U.K.’s Esther Wheeler was the top female at 61:33:09.
Standup paddleboarder Stuart Knaack, the only Yukon soloist, scratched at Lower Laberge June 28.
The top women’s voyageur was Team 3-2-1-Go, featuring B.C.’s B.C.’s Tina Hoeben and American teammates Kathleen Jensen, Cindy Lee, Beth Schluter, Margaret Caudle and Lynn Capen, finished fifth overall at 45:56:02.
The top mixed voyageur trophy went to Saranac 4 — Pennsylvania’s Teresa Stout, and New York State’s Jon Vermilyea, Ashley Cary and Ben Schlimmer — with a time of 45:48:16 for fourth overall.
A total of 88 teams representing 13 countries set out on this year’s 715-kilometre race, with 19 teams scratching along the way.
Yukon Wide Adventures led for almost the entire race after an inauspicious start.
“Dave Hutchison is not a fast runner because he has a fused ankle,” said Mooney. “He’s usually the last one leaving and then passes everyone all the way through the night.
“A lot of the boats got out ahead of us, but we got over to the faster water and within probably four minutes we were leading the pack.
“We had a really good start — a really good start — and that was it.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com