Registration opens Nov. 1st for 22nd annual Yukon River Quest

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Yukon River Quest
Photo: Harry Kern

Sign up early! “Race to the Midnight Sun” dates are June 24-28, 2020

Registrations will be accepted beginning November 1, 2019 for the 22nd annual Yukon River Quest (YRQ), which will be held June 24 to June 28, 2020. The 715-kilometer (444-mile) marathon paddling race is run on the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon Territory during the last week of June. The “Race to the Midnight Sun” is the world’s longest annual paddling race, as teams race round-the-clock on a wilderness river and under a sky that never gets dark. 

The allure of the Yukon River has made the YRQ a huge success. In the past two years, well more than 100 teams have registered, prompting race officials to adjust the team registration limit to 125 teams. In 2019, a record 117 teams were at the start line, and 86 of them finished. 

Peter Coates, president of the Yukon River Marathon Paddlers Association (YRMPA), said that team captains need to be ready to sign up early when registration opens on November 1. 

“We are getting prepared for the rush of teams registering for next years race,” Coates said. “Last year registration went very fast. We had 43 teams sign up in the first 20 minutes, 116 in the first day, and the race was full shortly after that. We do not expect it to be any less of a rush this year.” 

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Online entry forms are available starting at 18:00 (6 p.m.) Pacific Daylight Time on November 1 via a link under the Register tab on the race website www.yukonriverquest.com. Entry fees are unchanged: $525 per solo team (C1, K1, SUP); $950 per tandem team (C2, K2); and $300 per paddler for C4 and voyageur canoe (VC) teams. Payment is required at time of registration to secure a spot. 

A limit of 125 teams will again be in place for the 2020 race, with a voyageur canoe limit set at 15 teams, and a solo team limit of 50 teams. Solo paddlers who have not completed a YRQ must provide a satisfactory paddling resume prior to registration to demonstrate that they have sufficient marathon racing or wilderness paddling experience. Paddling resumes should be e-mailed to the race office at info@yukonriverquest.com. See Register page for more details. 

“Prospective paddlers thinking about entering need to be aware that this is a race that is tough mentally and physically,” Coates said. “Be prepared to be cold and sore, mentally and physically exhausted, out in the middle of nowhere. A very beautiful but unforgiving nowhere. Do not enter on a whim, but only if you are up to the challenge.” 

All paddlers should become familiar with details in the 2020 YRQ Rules, which are now posted in English on the website, along with several preparation tips. 

Each team is required to have a SPOT or similar tracking device mounted on top of their vessel and activated for tracking before the team is officially allowed to race. This requirement allows teams to be able to be tracked during the race from links on the Yukon River Quest website. Following the actual race live online has been hugely popular with spectators all over the world. During recent races, the reach exceeded more than 30,000 via Facebook. 

The past three years have seen record numbers of teams with the addition of Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) and four-person C4 canoes. Recently, the YRQ added five new C4s to its rental fleet. These canoes, along with two voyageur and seven C2 canoes may be rented by registered teams on the website. Local outfitters also rent kayaks and canoes. 

Total possible prize money remains at $42,830, based on 100 teams registered by June 1. The purse is adjusted upward or downward by a percentage point based on the final number of teams registered above or below 100. 

A new prize money structure enacted in 2019 awards the top three male, female and mixed teams per class as long as they beat another team in its class and finish within 25% of the top team in the class. Bonus prize money also will be given in several areas to: the top 10 teams overall; any team that breaks a record in its class; the top All- Indigenous team; the top Yukon male, female and mixed teams; the top senior team (age 55 and over), and the top young adult team (age 19-24). Several special awards are also donated by Yukon and Alaska sponsors. A complete prize breakdown can be found in the race rules on the website. 

However, many do the race for the personal satisfaction of staking their claim to a coveted YRQ Finisher Pin in historic Dawson City. Paddlers who have finished multiple YRQs also now covet entrance into the “Great River Club” which was unveiled for the 20th anniversary. Racers who have logged 5,000 and 10,000 kilometers are members of that club and receive special pins.

The race is all about endurance. Aside from two mandatory layovers at Carmacks (7 hours) and Coffee Creek (3 hours), teams paddle non-stop to reach the “City of Gold”. The course record still belongs to Canadian voyageur Team Kisseynew’s winning time of 39 hours, 32 minutes, 43 seconds in 2008. The 2019 overall winning time was 44:59:10 by the C2 team #wepaddletogether (Mike Vincent and Ivan English) of Saskatchewan, Canada. 

“There are no major changes planned for the race this year,” Coates noted. “Not that that means the race will be the same. Last year was a low water year with an unfriendly lake. There are early indications that it might be a higher water year next year, if you choose to believe that, and who knows what the weather will bring. Whatever it is, the race will be prepared for it.” 

The race’s continued success depends on hundreds of dedicated volunteers, who are greatly appreciated by our racers and have a good time helping out during the last week of June. Various volunteer opportunities are listed under the Volunteer page on the website, where you can see the various jobs and shifts and sign up online. 

YRMPA also welcomes new members and additions to its board of directors. The YRMPA Annual General Meeting will be held at Sport Yukon in Whitehorse at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 30. Watch for more news about YRQ events over the winter and spring. 

The Yukon River Quest is the premier paddling event in Canada’s North and is widely recognized throughout the paddling and adventure racing world. It has been featured in numerous publications, online, and in shows on NBC-TV, the BBC, and the CBC. The YRQ was named one of the ten toughest races in the world by renowned adventure racer and “Boundless” TV star Simon Donato. The race typically draws an international field. Last year, 13 countries were represented. 

The race was beautifully featured a decade ago in the National Film Board of Canada’s critically acclaimed “River of Life” about Paddlers Abreast, a voyageur team of Yukon breast cancer survivors that races every year. In 2020, they will be celebrating their 20th anniversary. Many other worthy causes have been represented as well. 

Major logo-level sponsors in 2019 were Newmont Goldcorp, Yukon 1000 Race Timing Software, Gold Trail Jewellers, Paddel Jumper, CKRW-The RUSH, Air North, Kanoe People, Whitehorse Star, PR Services-yukoninfo.com, Pepsi–Aquafina, City of Whitehorse, Up North Adventures, Superior Roofing YT, Total North Communications, Yukon Civil Air Search & Rescue (CASARA), Yukon Wide Adventures, The Coal Mine Campground, Fireweed Helicopters, North 60 Petro, North Star Mini Storage, Arcrite Northern Ltd., and Make IT Solutions. 

Many small businesses also have supported the race by sponsoring paddler bibs – see details on the website or contact the race office at 867-333-5628. For more information, view the pre-registration instructions, rules, and numerous paddler preparation links at www.yukonriverquest.com. For current news watch the site and the race’s Facebook page.

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