The Yukon River Quest (YRQ) 2018 is entering its 20th year on Wednesday, June 27 with the annual “Race to the Midnight Sun”; the longest annual paddling race starting in Whitehorse and ending in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada. This year has lured more participants than ever before, with 115 teams and 263 paddlers from all over the world set to take the starting line.
A big reason for the high registration numbers has to do with the large grant from the Yukon Government’s Community Development Fund to the YRQ, which has been used to fuel some great festivities surrounding the race. The fact that it’s the 20th anniversary doesn’t hurt either. On Monday, June 25 there will be a Whitehorse Meet & Greet on the historic SS Klondike site in which paddlers and volunteers dating back to the race’s beginning in 1997-98 have been invited to speak and attend. In addition, there will be more events on July 1 (Canada Day) at the race finish in Dawson City.
While the festivities will be abundant in entertainment, they are just peripheral to the race itself. Beside the two mandatory rest stops, adventure and marathon paddlers will race non-stop for 444 miles to Dawson City. The entire race has a prize pot of $48,720 (CAD) to be distributed to each class winners: solo canoe, solo kayak, SUP, tandem canoe, tandem kayak, C4 canoe, and voyager canoe. There will also be cash prizes for the top all-Yukon canoe and kayak teams, and the top First Nations team.
For most paddlers though, the race is about the experiences gained and stories forged. “Many participants including myself see the race as a life-changing experience,” said current race president and veteran race marshal Roger Hanberg. “That’s why I come back year after year to help organize it. We are fortunate to have many volunteers that feel the same way. I think it’s a great showcase of our territory and it’s ancient highway.”
Racers are all required to have an activated SPOT or InReach tracking device, which helps those who plan to follow the race electronically. The Race Tracker as well as athlete bios and event information can be found at http://www.yukonriverquest.com.
With a record field, and record prize pot, the 20th annual “Race to the Midnight Sun” promises to deliver. A complete race schedule supplemented with several stories about the race will be posted online a week before the event.