Skagway teams undertake the Yukon River Quest

By TOBEY SCHMIDT
REPORTER

Two Skagway teams set out to finish the 19th Annual Yukon River Quest, a strenuous 444-mile paddle from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, down the Yukon River to Dawson City.

The six-person voyageur team finished, but the tandem canoe decided to scratch before reaching the end. Kent Fielding, team captain of the voyageur, the Skagway Scissor Wizards, said they came in 24th place overall at 51 hours and 19 minutes on the river, not including the 10-hour mandatory rest stops.   

“We were really determined to try to beat the former Skagway record, which we were off by two minutes,” Fielding said. “We worked really well together, we were extremely efficient on the river compared to previous transitions.”

This was Fielding’s third year in the race.

Racers launched in Whitehorse on Wednesday morning, June 28. The Skagway Scissor Wizards arrived in Dawson City around 1:19 a.m. on Saturday morning, July 1.

“I think the hardest part of the whole race was the final stretch, I mean we actually had the, pretty much, the record beat, but I got us lost because the river outside of Dawson it becomes just really wide with lots of channels and islands and sand bars and so it’s easy to take a wrong turn,” Fielding said. “So we took a wrong turn and that was frustrating, and then we worked even extra hard to get to the finish line. It felt like your arms were going to fall off by the end of the race.”

Finishing the race was best part of the whole thing, according the Fielding. He said another great part was getting off of Lake Laberge – a widening of the Yukon River north of Whitehorse – because the lake is so still, unlike the river.

Denver Evans, who paddled in a tandem canoe with her grandfather, also said that Lake Laberge was a difficult part of the race for her.

“The lake was absolutely miserable,” Evans said. “It was so slow and if you stopped paddling for even a second you instantly slow down, so it was just really aggravating, but thankfully we didn’t have any huge winds or anything like that, but by the end of the lake I was pretty tired.”

Evans and her grandfather John O’Daniel scratched at Hootalinqua, which is about 80 miles from Whitehorse, and still 356 miles from Dawson City. Of the 88 teams that started the race, 19 of them scratched before finishing. There were 69 teams who finished in Dawson City.

“I was too competitive, so having all these teams passing me right off the get-go was a little frustrating, but we finally got into our own pace and there were a couple boats that were our pace as well,” Evans said.

She added that she would do the race again, but maybe in the voyageur next time. Although she was confident in her physical ability, Evans said that she wasn’t used to sitting for that long, and she would have liked a little more practice with her partner.

“I guess my favorite [part] was also the worst part,” Evans said. “It was the last like two miles of the lake, and it was dead calm; it was really, really pretty.”