Kayaker Ingrid Wilcox powers past younger opponents
The shore of the Yukon River was lined with spectators and well-wishers as Ingrid Wilcox glided through the final few metres of the Yukon River Quest on Saturday morning.
DAWSON CITY – The shore of the Yukon River was lined with spectators and well-wishers as Ingrid Wilcox glided through the final few metres of the Yukon River Quest on Saturday morning.
Cheers erupted in Dawson City as the siren went off, marking her finish.
When her boat came to shore, 62-year-old Wilcox happily tossed her paddle in the air to the delight of the crowd and raised her arms in celebration.
Once she was on shore and helped out of her boat by sister Tina Torbick, Wilcox smiled at the crowd that had gathered to meet her, still a little confused as to why they were all there.
“I’m proud, I’m happy,” Wilcox said. “Thank god it’s over.”
Wilcox, of Whitehorse, said the last few kilometres into Dawson were tough, as she accidentally skipped a page on her map, causing her to think she should have already been there, only to discover she still had about 14 miles or 22 kilometres to go.
The map she was reading was the same one she has used throughout the 10 years she has participated in the Yukon River Quest. Each page has notes from previous trips down the Yukon River, and reads as a story book of the paddler’s incredible paddling history.
This year was a tough one for the racers on Lake Laberge, but Wilcox said it was one of her best.
“I did better than I’ve ever done on Lake Laberge, but it cost me,” she said.
Wilcox struggled just like any other team with hallucinations, and found the constantly changing channels in the river very different this year.
“I had my moments out there,” she said.
The paddler saw faces in the walls of the cliffs rising above the Yukon River along the way.
After 10 years in the race, Wilcox said she may not return next year.
“I want to take a break, do some other things on my bucket list,” she said.
Wilcox thanked all the supporters for coming out, adding that she wasn’t expecting such a reception.
Many gathered to meet her were teams she had met – and passed – along the way, including the tandem men’s canoe team Noahscape, made up of Tim Laprade, 31, and Mike Townsend, 36, who scratched in Carmacks.
Laprade said they met Wilcox on Lake Laberge, as they struggled to navigate through the waves as the night fell on Wednesday.
“She was using our light,” Laprade said.
After following behind for several minutes, Wilcox got tired of waiting for the slow pokes in front of her, and easily paddled by.
“She’s just an amazing person,” Laprade said. “She kicked our butts.”
As she passed, Wilcox thanked them for the light as she paddled by, and beat them into Carmacks by two hours and 24 minutes.
“She knows how to do it,” Laprade said.
Wilcox said she hopes anyone thinking about participating in the River Quest takes a leap and enters.
“My message is, just do it,” she said.
The younger paddlers were planning on hitting the town after their journeys, and Wilcox was no different.
“Sleep time, then party time.”