From The Whitehorse Star , August 5th, 1999

BEHEMOTH BOAT – The Coast Mountain Coasters manoeuvre their way along the Yukon River. The eight-person, 26-foot long boat finished second overall.

Rowing your boat gently down the river

Star Sports Editor

It looked like a ship better suited for used by vikings to burn villages and slaughter their enemies, rather than a canoe race down the Yukon River.

But there were no battle cries emanating from the 26-foot long canoe and its eight-person Coast Mountain Coasters crew, just lots of laughter and renditions of 99 Bottles of the Beer on the Wall and Alouette.

The behemoth boat was one of nine canoes and five kayaks paddling in Wednesday evening’s Down River Race, a 20-kilometre journey along the Yukon River from Rotary Peace Park to the Takhini River Bridge.

“I thought we should have had a war call or something,” joked Coaster Brian Horton.

The eight-some was moving gently down the stream singing and joking as they chugged along. As they came closer to the finish line, the laughter turned to counts of “one, two, three…” as the second-place boat paddled hard to catch race leaders Mike Onesi and Jason Murphy.

“(We entered) the race to have a good time, a lot of fun and just to get out on the river,” said Coaster Corina Zumer. “But I guess the race spirit did catch up to us when everyone started counting.”

The canoe might have had a better chance if not for the slow leak that create some wet toes for the Coast Mountain crew.

Onesi and Murphy managed to out-paddle the boisterous boat to finish first overall with a time of one hour 25 minutes 22 seconds, two minutes ahead of the Coasters.

The winners, who finished third in the Yukon River Quest from Whitehorse to Dawson, managed to stay ahead despite having to make a detour when a black bear swam across the river in front of them.

Chris Pope had the fastest kayak, coming third overall at 1:31:28.

Not every racer was covered in sweat when they pulled up to the Takhini River Bridge as most people were in it for the fun.

Kathy Walker and Lynn Brown enjoyed zig-zagging down the river in their first canoe race.

“(The reason we entered) was it was so nice out, the beautiful scenery and it was refreshing to be on the water,” said Walker, “it was a little frustrating because I don’t know how to steer very well so the canoe was going back and forth.”

For canoeists, there are only three organized competitions in the Yukon. The Whitewater Rodeo, which is dominated by kayakers, is mainly for whitewater canoeists. Only gung-ho paddlers enter the 700-kilometre Yukon River Quest from Whitehorse to Dawson.

So the Down River Race is the only chance for recreational and serious canoeists to get together, paddle and enjoy the scenery.

Race organizer Yvonne Harris would like to have more canoeing events in the territory.

“I think it’s great for people to get together. They can learn from each other and get to know people. Quite often, we are all just off paddling on our own,” Harris said.

The Down River Race follows the first 20 kilometres of the Yukon River Quest held in June. Harris, who placed ninth in the Quest with partner Lynn Meehan, didn’t have any flash backs.

“It’s a totally different race,” she said.

1999 The Whitehorse Star