The 715-kilometer (444-mile) wilderness adventure paddling race is held on the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The YRQ is the world’s longest annual canoe and kayak race. It is known as the “Race to the Midnight Sun,” as paddlers race round-the-clock under a sky that never gets dark. There are just two mandatory rest stops of 10 hours over the course of the entire event.
Registration for the 2013 race opened on Nov. 1. Online entry forms are available via a link on the race website www.yukonriverquest.com under the Register tab. Entry fees remain $850 (CAD) for tandem canoes and kayaks, $475 for solo canoes and kayaks, and $250 per person for voyageur canoe teams of six or more paddlers.
Deadline for entries is May 15, 2013, but teams are encouraged to register early due to the worldwide popularity of the event. There is a limit of 100 canoe and kayak teams, which includes a limit of 30 solo teams. These solo teams should register immediately to reserve a slot. Paddlers should have race or wilderness paddling experience, and all boats must meet the specifications defined in the 2013 YRQ Rules posted on the website.
The Yukon River Quest remains a popular paddling event, drawing participants from all over the world. In 2012, 68 teams from 13 countries started the race and 54 teams finished. Lake Laberge was unusually calm and the river was high and fast, accounting for fast times overall. The overall winner was an Australian voyageur team, Down Under Dogs, in 41 hours, 51 minutes. Two records were broken in women’s divisions. Skirting Disaster, an international team, shattered the women’s voyageur record in 42:50 and The Fascinators (Yukoners Martha Taylor and Ali Morham) beat the previous women’s tandem kayak record by four hours with a time of 47:04.
Teams are required to have a SPOT device mounted on top of their boats and activated for tracking before their team is officially registered. Introduced last year, this requirement allowed teams to be able to be tracked during the race from links on the Yukon River Quest website.
Yukon River Quest President Carl Rumscheidt commented that organizers found SPOT tracking to be very successful.
“Knowing where boats are along the river helps improve racer safety,” said Rumscheidt, “and the folks back home watching the progress of their favourite racers on the internet really liked being that much closer to the action.”
The 2013 race purse will be $36,500 (CAD) if a full roster of 100 teams is registered by the May 15 deadline. Otherwise the purse is adjusted downward on a percentage basis.
There are overall cash prizes for each class — tandem canoe, tandem kayak, solos, and voyageur canoes — as well as prizes for the top three in each division. There also are $500 cash prizes for the top all-Yukon canoe and kayak teams, and the top First Nations team. Several special awards are also donated by Yukon sponsors. A complete prize breakdown can be found in the race rules on the website.
The course record still belongs to Canadian voyageur Team Kisseynew’s winning time of 39:32:43 in 2008.
Teams must finish the YRQ in 55 hours to receive prize money, but many do the race for the personal satisfaction of staking their claim to a coveted finisher pin in historic Dawson City. Aside from two mandatory layovers at Carmacks (7 hours) and Kirkman Creek (3 hours), teams paddle non-stop to reach the “City of Gold”. The race is supported by more than 200 volunteers.
For more information, view the pre-registration instructions, rules, and numerous paddler preparation links at www.yukonriverquest.com. For current news watch the site and the race’s Facebook page.