By Leigh Armstrong

The Yukon River Quest is set to break participation records with 290 racers signing up to compete in the 21st annual race. The racers are divided into 124 teams, breaking last year’s high of 103 teams. 

The 444-mile race from Whitehorse to Dawson in the Yukon Territory started on June 26 and will end between June 28 or 29, depending on how fast the teams run the river. 

Of the 124 teams, three include Skagway residents:

• The Wild Irises, a women’s voyageur consisting of Stephanie Ryan, Nicole Kovacs and Briana Agenbroad from Skagway and two women from Whitehorse. 

• The Trois Riveres,  a mixed C4 (four-person) canoe that Skagway’s Sam Best will man with three team members from Whitehorse and Haines. 

• The Paddling Poets, a men’s C2 (two-person) canoe that Skagway’s Kent Fielding will paddle with a New Hampshire friend who attended grad school with Fielding at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Fielding, who has competed in the race in past years, will be trying the tandem canoe for the first time this year. 

Teams can run the race in a variety of boats, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboards with varying mixes of team members.

The majority of the course will be on rivers with at least a four-mile-per-hour current, but Fielding said his biggest worry is Lake Laberge. In addition to being still water — which is more difficult to paddle though — the lake is notorious for being stormy during the race. 

Beyond that, Fielding said his other worry is that water levels are lower this year than in past races, which will slow everything down. 

This year, teams are competing for $53,632 Canadian, the largest purse offered by the Yukon River Quest. Prize money is split into several categories of competition, with special bonuses for racers who break records.  

Those interested in tracking the race live can check the Yukon River Quest Facebook and Instagram pages, or check the racetracker at yukonriverquest.com. 

An awards ceremony and banquet will be held June 30 in by the waterfront in Dawson, after the Canada Day parade.