Ready to battle the Yukon

Three Juneau teams embark on world's largest canoe and kayak race

Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2005

WHITEHORSE, Yukon - All three Juneau teams competing in the 460-mile Yukon River Quest said Wednesday morning's drizzling rain was an advantage.

"I think it's perfect, this is Juneau weather," said Nick Foster, a solo kayaker, after his boat passed inspection by race officials. "If it rains the whole time, that's good for me."

Foster said his training went well. He was climbing in Denali two weeks ago and even climbed two peaks in the Brooks Range after that.

"Hope you're pulling for me," Foster said to his friends in Juneau.

Foster has plenty of experience paddling in the ocean, he said, but has not done much river kayaking. This is his first time entering the race, which starts in Whitehorse and ends in Dawson City.

Former Assistant Attorney General Thomas Slagle, and his paddling partner Frank Cahill, are also rookies to the River Quest, but Slagle definitely has experience on the Yukon River. He hiked the Chilkoot Trail and paddled from Lake Bennett all the way to St. Mary's, Alaska, about a 2,000-mile trip, in two months.

"This is a race though," Slagle said. But, the Juneau resident added, "We're going to be taking it easy and be enjoying ourselves. I like doing rivers."

"We're getting Juneau weather, so that makes it nice for us," Slagle said with a smile.

Slagel's concerns about Lake Lebarge echoed those of most other racers.

"I think that's the big question mark on this race is Lake Lebarge," Slagle said.

Juneau's Dave Sevdy agreed.

"I think if I can get across the lake in a good time, I'll be O.K. Everything's downhill from there," Sevdy said.

Sevdy was enjoying the light rain as well.

"It kind of reminds me of home. Last year it was about 80 and sunny, so this is a nice change," he said.

The Yukon River Quest is the longest annual canoe and kayak race in the world.

A record 67 teams were signed up for the 2005 River Quest, which kicks off with a mass start in downtown Whitehorse. At 12:30 p.m., a stampede of almost 130 paddlers in full boating gear sprinted, jogged and walked to their nearby boats that were waiting at the edge of the Yukon River.

The top teams are expected to arrive in Dawson City on Canada Day, Friday, July 1.



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