Crushing wind, unrelenting rain, high water levels, and dangerous debris are just some of the adverse conditions that made the 2022 Yukon River Quest one of the most exciting in its 23-year history. Paddlers who tipped in Lake Laberg’s brutal headwind or dumped in Five Finger Rapid’s thrashing high water will remember 2022 as a cautionary tale for even the most experienced and tenacious paddlers.
In all, 10 records were set at the YRQ this year including a SUP record-smashing that race director Mia Lee says could be a tough one to beat for years to come. Australian SUP racer Lincoln Dews smashed the previous SUP record by more than four hours, landing in Dawson City after paddling for 47 hours, 46 minutes and 32 seconds. The previous record, set by Bart de Zwart in 2017, was 52:16:06.
Something Else Entirely, a four-man canoe team with paddlers from the Yukon and Ontario, also crossed the finish line in Dawson City in 39:08:12, besting the previous record of 39:32:43, set by Team Kisseynew in 2008.
Additional new records were set in categories including the women’s tandem canoe and mixed four-person canoe. In the women’s four-person canoe, team Every Child Matters broke a record in their category with a time of 50 hours and 23 minutes.
“High, fast water played a part in quicker times this year, but it also made for challenging conditions,” says Lee. “A number of boats tipped on Lake Laberge due to headwind. One in seven boats dumped in Five Finger Rapids, where seasoned racers said the waves were higher than ever. Wind and rainstorms soaked some teams and made for slow going for others, but overall 62 boats finished the 715-kilometer race from Whitehorse to Dawson.”
As testament to this year’s challenging water conditions are snippets from a message race marshal Stephen Mooney sent to racers on the morning of Thursday June 16 before the start:
- Flow levels are very high. This, along with the amount of debris, means that paddling conditions will be challenging
- Paddling from where the Teslin enters to Carmacks will be especially challenging; checkpoints are every 50-70 km and it will be difficult to find places to pull off the water.
- We are particularly concerned with solo paddlers and strongly recommend buddying up with other teams during the race.
- Little Salmon checkpoint, around 250 paddling kms from Whitehorse, is the first checkpoint with road access where your support crew could pick you up. Remote checkpoints will not carry you out of the bush except in emergency situations
- If you do not have strong paddling skills, wilderness experience and the ability to be completely self-sufficient for at least 24 hours, you should seriously reconsider paddling this year.
- While the race provides checkpoints with power boats and tracks each team, this does not guarantee that your team can be quickly reached in the event of an emergency. This is a wilderness event. Your own skills and experience are key, particularly this year.
Still, the adverse conditions speak to the high caliber of participants drawn to compete in this paddling marathon, in which only 62 teams out of 105 finished the full race.
“A huge shout out goes to all paddlers who set records, placed in the top three or even finished in what is sure to be remembered as one of the most intensive Yukon River Quests in the history of Yukon marathon paddling,” says Lee. “Thanks to the safety boat crews and shoreline volunteers who worked tirelessly to assure that all paddlers made it safely. And many thanks to the diligent and dutiful work of YRQ Race Marshal Stephen Mooney for taking the helm and delivering a YRQ for the record books.”
—By Ivy Gerber
Finishers at this year’s long paddler race include:
Mens Stand-up Paddleboard
1 – NEW RECORD Lincoln Dews (Lincoln Dews) 47:46:32
2 – Halfway to Cina (Davide Cina) 49:28:11
3 – Standing Room Only (Jason Bennett) 50:23:54
Womens stand-up paddleboard
1 – Type 2 Fun (LouAnne Harris) 62:36:12
2 – Shara Dubeau (Shara Dubeau) 65:34:50
Mens Solo canoe
1 – NEW RECORD Half a Perfect Storm (Gaetan Plourde) 47:59:34
2 – Doggy Paddle (Matthew Smith) 59:47:00
Mens Solo kayak
1 – Wunnumut (Jeff Brainard) 44:10:35
2 – Golden Retriever (Wayne Anderson) 45:43:00
3 – Estonian Vikings (Mart Reimann) 48:46:32
Womens solo kayak
1 – Victorious Secret (Mirjam Fleming) 53:43:02
2 – Rough Cut Diamond (Patricia Jones) 55:46:34
Mens tandem canoe
1 – Soggy Bottom Boys 43:13:36
2 – Spirit of the Yukon 44:36:28
3 – Calgary Canoe Club 45:42:20
Womens tandem canoe
1 – NEW RECORD Love of Paddling 47:43:24
2 – The Girls Next Door 56:51:23
Mixed tandem canoe
1 – The Bickersons 46:18:53
2 – Mennonites Don’t Tip 50:49:31
3 – Fermentation Vessel 53:43:17
Mens Tandem kayak
1 – NEW RECORD www.tyreorder.com Elite Team 40:05:43
2 – Yukon Wide Adventures 45:01:00
3 – World of Kayaks Team Estonia M&M 50:20:16
Womens tandem kayak
1 – NEW RECORD Huum Sauna 43:44:39
Mixed tandem kayak
1 – Schaay Ventures 47:39:15
2 – RBA 62:28:13
Mens Four-person canoe
1 – NEW RECORD Something Else Entirely 39:08:12 (new overall race record)
2 – Team Quickblade 43:13:04
Womens four-person canoe
1 – NEW RECORD Every Child Matters 50:23:11
2 – Sea Wings 57:22:08
Mixed four-person canoe
1 – NEW RECORD Delta Heat 43:17:01
2 – VIP Bucket List 46:25:05
1 – Pagunpogo 40:05:43
2 – Hatchet Lake 42:35:37
3 – Buckwheat’s Howlers 46:40:05
1 – High Voltage 54:17:00
1 – NEW RECORD Eddyline (mens tandem canoe) 24:38:54
2 – Paddlers Abreast (women’s voyageur) 25:00:40
3 – Crisis and the Commando (mixed tandem kayak) 26:07:11