Yukoners in four winning boats at River Quest

It had been five years since a Yukon paddler was in the first boat to reach Dawson City in the Yukon River Quest. The losing streak ended Friday.

It had been five years since a Yukon paddler was in the first boat to reach Dawson City in the Yukon River Quest.

The losing streak ended Friday.

Faro, Yukon’s Tim Lynch and Nova Scotia’s Dave Lewis won the 15th annual race from Whitehorse to Dawson, reaching the finish at 7:02 p.m. on Friday for first overall.

They completed the 715-kilometre “race to the midnight sun” in one day, 21 hours and two minutes.

The overall win also earned them the men’s tandem canoe title.

Lynch and Lewis’s win marks the first time the race wasn’t won by a voyageur canoe since 2006 and the first time a tandem canoe won the overall since 2004.

“We started really well,” said Lynch. “There were a couple Australians in a K2 who were quick from the start, and we lost them for a while, but managed to catch them later on in the first night.

“After that it was pretty close.”

Their team, Round Side Down, was the first into Carmacks on Thursday morning and led the race from there on. There was a lot of looking over their shoulders to see if any boats were catching up to them, said Lynch.

“That’s pretty much what we were doing, trying as best as we can to see if anyone was coming,” said Lynch. “If you have a long, straight stretch in the river, you get a chance to try and see. But after you get pretty tired, it’s hard to even turn around to look.”

Lynch and Lewis also won the men’s tandem canoe title last year and placed fourth overall. The two have both competed together at the national level in the past.

“Dave and I are both from Nova Scotia – I’m living in Faro now … Before I got into the RCMP, we did marathon racing all the time in the Maritimes,” said Lynch, who moved to the Yukon four years ago.

A pair of Ontarians took second overall, also in a tandem men’s canoe, followed by two Australians in a two-man kayak.

American voyageur canoes took fourth and fifth.

Yukoners were on four division-winning boats, including the overall, in the race.

Whitehorse’s Stephen Mooney was the first soloist to Dawson, kayak and canoe.

Mooney won the men’s solo kayak with a time of two days and 1:14:43, which put him seventh overall. He was the only Yukoner in the division that saw 16 paddlers start, but only nine finish.

“It was a pretty good race. It was my slowest (River Quest) race, so there was some disappointment,” said Mooney. “Every race where you finish is a good race.”

It was Mooney’s third time winning the division. He also won the overall race in 2005 with Whitehorse’s Greg McHale in a men’s tandem kayak.

“It was a challenge for my 50th birthday,” said Mooney of this year’s race. “I thought, let’s get back in shape, let’s train and have a goal, and I’m glad I did it. My wife (Susan) supported me and pushed me to do this. It was great to have my wife support me, and my buddy Dominic (Alford) at Carmacks as my support crew. You need that; they are crazy important. You get to Carmacks and you feel terrible and you need someone to take care of you.

“Fixing the boat, cleaning the boat, cleaning me, feeding me, getting me to bed, getting me up, getting my ass back in the boat – that’s what a support crew does.”

Teslin’s Melissa Valja and Tammy Stoneman had an inauspicious start to their very first Yukon River Quest.

“Right after we started from Whitehorse we paddled by all the crowds and a person yelled out, ‘Team 66, turn your paddles around,’” said Valja. “We kind of ignored him and then another person yelled out, ‘Team 66, turn your paddles around!’ Then we realized we were paddling with our paddles backwards.

“We didn’t actually know how to use the paddles! They were race paddles … and I hadn’t thought to Google how to use them.”

With their paddles facing the right way, Valja and Stoneman completed the journey in two days, 16:22:51 for first place in the women’s tandem canoe division – just two minutes up from the second place finishers from the U.K.

Not only was it their first Quest, it was their first race.

“I found it a huge physical challenge,” said Stoneman. “It was a good thing to experience, but it really challenged me physically.”

“Our goal was to get to Dawson City and to go have calamari at the Drunken Goat (restaurant) – calamari and beer. A lot of our goals were food motivated.”

Whitehorse teams dominated the women’s voyageur division, filling the top three spots.

Whitehorse’s Currently Available took first with an hour to spare, reaching Dawson in two days and 2:07:43.

“We had to come up with a name and I thought it was neat we had a variety of ages – 24 to 58 – and I thought maybe we could do some around that,” said captain Mia Lee. “Then someone said, ‘We’re all single.’ One is engaged to be married, but she’s not married yet. Another one has a long-distance relationship, but I didn’t know that at the time.

“So my colleague called me back and said, ‘Currently Available.’ It’s a play on words and I thought it was pretty fun. But, no, we didn’t meet anyone in the race.”

Currently Available placed fourth overall out of all voyageur boats and was named Top All-Yukon Canoe during the awards gala.

Joining Lee onboard was Monique Levesque, Marian Geary, Carmen Gustafson, Kim Hawkins, Alison Maksymchak.

Levesque and Lee were the only two with Quest experience, while the rest were “complete rookies,” said Lee.

“We did a lot of preparation,” said Lee. “I worked really hard to prepare them and it totally paid off.

“We’re very, very happy considering we lost over two hours time from going for a swim (accidently) in the Five Fingers rapids and then pulling over for lightning. So considering we lost more than two hours, we did quite well.”

Whitehorse’s Paddlers Abreast took second in the women’s voyageur with a time of two days, 3:05:43, and was the sixth voyageur boat into Dawson.

The team was made up of Lynn Rice Rideout, Maralyn Rogers, Dawn Fralick, Midori Kirby, Jane Haydock, Michelle Wagner, Claire Desmarais and Linda Rapp.

Whitehorse’s 300 Years of Wisdom – Ali Morham, Leslie Gomm, Mandy McClung, Jenny Cairns, Paula Jennings and Lauren Crooks – placed third at two days, 4:39:12.

This year’s River Quest saw 67 teams register, 62 start last Wednesday at noon and 49 finish.

A total of nine countries were represented. No records were set in this year’s race.

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