Quick finish to Quest expected, despite some adverse conditions
by Jeff Korenko
A Whitehorse Star Archive story originally published June 23, 2000

Despite having to make more stops than they perhaps anticipated along their course to Dawson City, the competitors paddling the Yukon River in the River Quest endurance race are clipping along at a pretty steady pace.

The unscheduled stops are due to the fact cold, wet conditions during the race’s first two days have forced competitors to change their clothes on more than a few occassions, said Race Marshal John Firth.

Nonetheless, high water and a 9.5-kilometre-per-hour current has helped the teams make up for lost time due to the stoppages. The sun has finally broke through, yielding dryer and warmer conditions, which should make for even faster times.

The lead teams, added Firth, have been clocked moving at a speed of about 20 kilometres-per-hour.

“I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there was a record-setting finish to the race,” he said.

According to Firth, as of 10 this morning, all teams had departed Minto, where there was a mandatory six-hour layover.

As expected heading into the event, the team of Solomon Carriere — from Cumberland House, Saskatchewan — and Fairbanks, Alaska’s Dan Solie were the first into both Carmacks and Minto. The pair departed Minto last night at 11:22, exactly six hours after arriving early yesterday evening.

Merely 30 minutes behind the leaders are East Wenatchee, Washington’s Tom Feil and Jeff Mettler, who made up about four minutes on the front-runners between the two mandatory stops in Carmacks and Minto.

Brampton, Ontario’s Wayne and Michael Gregory sit third, having hit the water from Minto at 2:23 this morning.

The team of Yvonne Harris and Brian Horton is currently the fastest Yukon boat on the water. They are currently in fifth place, having departed Minto this morning at 3:40.

Leaving an hour and 31 minutes later, occupying sixth spot and challenging Harris and Horton for the fastest territory vessel are William Kleedehn and Gerry Willomitzer.

In the solo kayak class, the three competitors from Whitehorse — the only ones in the event, which started Tuesday evening — seem to be keeping pace.

Leading the way is Yannick Bedard, followed by Jim Tousignant, then Ingrid Wilcox.

Bedard got into Carmacks yesterday afternoon at 12:34, with Tousignant hot in his wake.

Tousignant checked into Carmacks just an hour and four minutes later, but Bedard gained nearly a couple of hours on him into Minto.

Wilcox, who got into Minto last night at 11:08, left at 5:41 this morning.

Because of the fast-moving current, a couple of teams have had difficulty controlling their canoes, evidenced by the fact the Gregorys and the team of Kurt Bringsli and Anthony Arkand of Whitehorse — who were in 10th position after arriving into Minto at 5:20 a.m. today — flipped their canoes coming into the six-hour layover.

“With the water moving this fast, even a moment’s hesitation can cause the canoe to flip,” offered Firth. “And when you’re as drained as these racers are, it’s not hard to hesitate with paddling decisions sometimes.”

Firth’s perception of the racers’ emotional states as they headed out of Minto this morning toward their final destination of Dawson in the 800-kilometre Quest, was that they were on the upswing.

“I think with the conditions being what they were, (the racers) were pretty down as they came into Minto,” he said. “Generally, the first half of an event like this is a huge strain on the racers emotionally and mentally as tiredness, the cold and the ability or inability to stay dry plays a big role.

But after a six-hour rest, it becomes much more physical; whether you have the stamina and strength to keep going.”

As of this morning, the Web site www.adventurelifestyle.com had yet to post any results from the Yukon River Quest.


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