This year, more people than ever will be participating in the world’s largest canoe and kayak race down the Yukon River from Whitehorse, YT to Dawson City.
A record breaking 94 teams with 236 paddlers from 14 different countries from as far as the Côte d’Ivoire and Australia have registered to participate in the 18th annual Yukon River Quest. It is the highest number of teams to compete since the race was founded in 1999, beating the previous record of 89 teams in 2008.
Two of those teams will be representing Skagway’ strong family and community bonds on the Yukon River.
The father and son tandem canoe team, Brady Boys, will consist of Jeff Brady and his son Danny, 15.
This will be Danny Brady’s first year competing in the race, though he has been involved as a volunteer and support crew member for the past decade. The Yukon River Quest is something of a family tradition for the Bradys, ever since Jeff Brady helped co-found the event.
It will be Jeff Brady’s fifth time competing in the River Quest.
“I try not do it too often because it wrecks me,” Jeff Brady said. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, especially doing it as a tandem team. In a tandem team, it’s you and your partner and you’re relying on each other the whole time.”
Danny said he’s excited to participate in the race, but it’s a bit daunting. During his training, he’s tackled parts of the River Quest’s path, including some of Lake LaBarge all the way to Carmacks, or from Port Selkirk down to Dawson City, but never the whole thing in one sitting.
Jeff Brady has every confidence in his son’s capabilities out on the water.
“He knows what he’s getting into,” he said. “He knows what kind of conditions we’re going to be in when we hit Carmacks – you can barely walk, you’ve been sitting in the boat for the past 24 hours.”
Danny Brady said he hopes that his previous experience competing in sporting events will serve him well on the river.
“The closest thing I could ever think I’ve done is cross country because you’ve got a set goal and you’re just going and going and going until you finish,” he said. “But with that it’s a matter of minutes and seconds, but with this it’s a matter of hours.”
Danny said he is glad to be carrying on the Brady family tradition of participating in the race with his father.
“I would pick no one else for my first race,” Danny said. “No one knows the river better.”
Jeff Brady’s goal is to complete the race in less than 60 hours this year.
“[My goal is] to finish,” Danny Brady said. “I think this year is going to be a good year. The only part I would be nervous about it the lake because it’s so long and anything can go wrong out there.”
The Bradys have been training for the race since mid-April by getting out on the water almost once a week and training with the other Skagway team, the mixed gender voyageur team, Maggio’s Magic.
“It’s fun training with them,” Jeff Brady said. “It’s cool to have two Skagway teams competing in the race.”
Maggio’s Magic is comprised of A.J. Conley, Kent Fielding, Dirk Foss, Katie Foss Meemkim, Curt Burns and Shane Yarborough.The team chose their name to commemorate Temsco helicopter pilot Christopher Maggio, who passed away in a helicopter accident on May 6, 2016.
“We decided to name our team in honor of Christopher Maggio to honor a member of the community that everyone loved and really respected,” voyageur team member A.J. Conley said.
The team has been preparing together since the beginning of May by paddling out in Long Bay in addition to preparations with the Brady Boys, and just completed an overnight practice run from Carmacks to Minto.
Conley participated in the race last year, and she said she’s ready to go again this year.
“I’m just really excited to get back out there and do it again,” Conley said.
Her favorite part about the race is spending time with her team members out on the water and sharing a bonding experience unlike any other.
“It’s a really great way to get to know people, even if you’ve known them before,” she said. “It’s a totally different experience hanging out with someone when you both haven’t slept for three days.”
Conley said the team is looking to beat the fastest record set by a team from Skagway by crossing the finish line in less than 51 hours.
“But we are just always happy to finish and be a part of the race,” she said.
Over the course of the four-day race, the participating teams will paddle 444 miles day and night to Dawson City, with only two required stops for a total of 10 hours of mandatory rest time.
The race will begin on Wednesday, June 29 at Rotary Peace Park in Whitehorse. Teams are expected to reach the finish line in Dawson City sometime between the afternoon of July 1, and midnight on July 2, which is the official end time of the race.
This year will see the introduction of an experimental class of Stand Up Paddle boarders. Twelve paddle-boarders will be making their way to Dawson City to test the waters for other paddle boarders in the future years.
For updates during the Yukon River Quest, tune into the Whitehorse-based radio station CKRW 96.1 or visit the live race tracker at www.yukonriverquest.org.