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PADDLING HARD – Two teams of canoers begin their journey to Dawson City yesterday afternoon in the second-annual Yukon River Quest.

Yukon River Quest gets off to torrid start
by Jeff Korenko (Article first appeared on June 22, 2000 in the Whitehorse Star)

It was a friendly, mad scramble to see who could get wet first.

Twenty-eight individuals lined up anxiously across Main Street yesterday, waited for the time to hit precisely fifteen minutes past noon.

Spectators lined the sidewalks directly in front of the CIBC and adjacent Bank of Montreal building, many holding video and still cameras to mark the occasion of the Le Mans style start to the second-annual Yukon River Quest.

Most of the competitors —comprised of 13 teams in the canoe category and one in the two person kayak race — mingled with their counterparts, laughing and stretching casually.

When the arrival of the start time was announced, the spread-out group quickly converged into a line of no more than three-people wide.

Within a matter of seconds, they came upon the White Pass train depot and after running by it, made a sharp right turn onto the bank of the Yukon River, the waterway which will take them to their ultimate destination, Dawson City.

More than two hundered spectators awaited the racers’ arrival on the gravel bar behind the Yukon Territory Government building and they cheered the racers on as the first few got their vessels into the water.

The River Quest is roughly an 800-kilometre test of paddling endurance. It is set to close in Dawson City at 4:15 p.m. Sunday.

Many of the racers expect to reach their destination sometime Friday evening.

It took a little fewer than seven minutes for all the competitors to get their boats onto the water. Within minutes, they appeared as nothing more than bright specs cast adrift, as the strong current of the Yukon River pushed them north.

Expected to have a strong finish to the race and perhaps take the first-place allotment of the $ 5,000 purse is the team of Soloman Carriere and Dan Solie.

Carriere, an experienced river racer from Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, won last year’s event, racing with Fairbanks, Alaska’s Jim Lokken.

Carriere and Solie, who also hails from Fairbanks, were in the first group of three teams to get their boats upstream.

Of the 13 teams competing in the canoe portion of the event, eight are racing in the men’s category, four in the mixed and one in the women’s; that being the team of Heather Birchard and Tara Wardle from Whitehorse.

The lone duo racing in the two-person kayak category — Anchorage, Alaska’s Greg and Jane Tibbetts — surrendured the opportunity to win some prize money, as they turned down an offer to switch to canoe class. They instead chose to compete for a record time.

Anyone wishing to follow the paddlers’ expedition to Dawson can see some photos, stories and voice clips daily at adventurelifestyle.com, an internet website dedicated to extreme sporting events around the world.

The River Quest can be found under the category “From the Field.”

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