Duo Sets Yukon River Rowing Records

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Continuously rowing for 50 hours and 50 minutes down a 440-mile stretch of Canada’s Yukon River, Steve Price and Colin Angus’s June voyage broke records — just not the one they were hoping for.

“Our trip was the fastest unsupported (brought their own food and water) journey ever recorded along this stretch of river and we’re the only team that ever made the voyage without once stepping ashore,” said Price, the 62-year-old Associate Vice President for Technology Development at Oklahoma State University. “Our time was the fastest recorded by anyone in the last five years and we missed breaking the overall human-powered record by an hour and 18 minutes. That record was set in 2008 by a six-person team.”

The pair began the voyage on June 26 and hit strong headwinds during the 33-mile Lake Laberge crossing, setting them back an hour and a half along the stretch of river from Whitehorse to Dawson City that more than 700 teams have raced down since 2001.

Price and Angus posted the fourth fastest time ever recorded, the second fastest time in history for a team of two and the fastest ever posted by a two-person canoe.

“At one point, so much water was coming into the boat from waves that we could only just keep up with bailing the water out,” said Price. “In addition, water splashing over the bow soaked our sleeping bag and us, which, when coupled with the wind, made for a cold transit. Had conditions been calm on Lake Laberge, we would have comfortably achieved our goal of setting a human-powered speed record.”

The sleeping bag eventually dried out so one team member could rest while the other rowed, trading positions every two hours. The pair maintained an overall average speed of 8.6 mph, reaching speeds of up to 13.5 mph along one stretch of river in the 16-foot Oxford Wherry custom made by Angus — a 42-year-old veteran outdoorsman and National Geographic‘s 2007 Adventurer of the Year, after he became the first person to circumnavigate the globe by human power.

“When we finally arrived in Dawson City at 4:53 a.m. on June 28, we were feeling a bit tired but in good physical shape. The rowboat performed flawlessly—tracking well through the turbulent waters and providing ample stability,” writes Price in a blog that offers an overview of the journey. “No repairs or adjustments were required for the duration of our quest,” he said. “While we didn’t break the overall human-powered record, we were thrilled to have set the records mentioned, as well as to have demonstrated the speed and power of the two-person rowboat design.”

The rowers are thanking their wives, who helped make the adventure possible, as well as a trio of witnesses, who recorded the team’s departure and arrival times in the early morning hours.

Just last summer, Price broke a 24-hour world record for rowing on a rowing machine for his weight and age. In April of 2009, he set another 24-hour world record by completing 3,175 pull-ups.

For more information, go to yukonrow.blogspot.com. Price also publishes a blog on science topics, intellectual property rights and policy issues at http://www.oipm.okstate.edu/blog.

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