Seals, trains and helicopters batter River Questers
The Steelbacks were complaining, the clouds were threatening yet another lightning storm, and Jean-Francois Latour was re-enacting an Arctic seal hunt on the Yukon River – kind of.
DAWSON CITY – The Steelbacks were complaining, the clouds were threatening yet another lightning storm, and Jean-Francois Latour was re-enacting an Arctic seal hunt on the Yukon River – kind of.
It was that point in the Yukon River Quest, when the hallucinations are plentiful and the question of “why did we do this?” is repeated endlessly.
Latour, president of the Yukon River Quest and three-year race veteran, along with partner and six-time Quester Terry Ramin were not immune to the strange sights and sounds caused by sleep deprivation and dehydration on the 740-kilometre race from Whitehorse to Dawson.
After finishing Saturday, Latour said Ramin suffered a strange hallucination. He saw a seal on the side of the Yukon River, and was convinced it had swam downstream from the Arctic Ocean. Latour attempted to correct him, agreeing that they do sometimes swim downstream, but the Yukon River was a bit out of the way for a seal.
But Ramin was convinced, and after arguing for several minutes, Latour began angling their tandem canoe towards the “seal”, and once he reached the cute little animal, he bashed it on the head with his paddle.
“Now it’s a dead seal,” Latour told Ramin, who watched his seal quickly turn into a stump. He finally agreed it may have been a hallucination.
Latour and Ramin, who made up The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, had planned to be in Dawson within 43 or 44 hours, but instead the weather caused them to add more than10 hours, to finish in a time of 55 hours, eight minutes. They were 18 minutes behind the first-place tandem canoe team, Experimental Curry Powder.
“We were trying to play hide and seek and cat and mouse,” Latour said.
Both teams used the different channels and islands to try to lose one another.
“They were rookies too, so we were counting on that,” Latour said.
But the team didn’t make any mistakes, and in the end Experimental Curry Powder, made up of Adam Jordan and Chris St. Jack from Australia, were first.
Latour and Ramin arrived at 5 a.m. Saturday morning.
Latour said Lake Laberge was the difference this year.
“That was really slow,” he said.
Both Latour and Ramin were soaking wet, and they had used up all their extra clothing.
“I keep paddling, that’s how I keep warm,” he said.
The team ended up being second overall out of the tandem canoes.
Latour wasn’t disappointed despite not reaching his goal, because the two were treated to a beautiful sunrise as they arrived in Dawson City.
“The sunrise this morning was fantastic,” he said after catching up on his sleep Saturday afternoon. “That was worth being late.”
Latour said they had a few close calls on the river, including one incident after Kirkman Creek when the wind picked up their canoe and tossed it sideways.
“Good thing we were rested because we would have tipped over,” he said.
Latour hopes to try out the River Quest as a solo team in the future.
The Steelbacks, all British Army soldiers from the United Kingdom, were rookies in this year’s race. The team’s five members were coaxed over here by captain Mark Hart’s promises of a finish line flanked with beautiful Dawson women and parties. Hart also assured the men the River Quest would be a walk in the park.
The Steelbacks was made up of Hart, Ian Coe, Christopher Vickers, John Jeffree, Alun Thomas and Peter Joyes. All are members of the British Army, but few had ever set foot inside of a canoe.
Before the team even hit Carmacks the hallucinations were in full force. One saw a helicopter crash right in front of them. Another was sure he saw a train winding its way through the Yukon wilderness, despite his teammate’s assurance that there was no rail link between Dawson and Whitehorse. It later turned out the train was in fact the far off Klondike Highway.
Latour said this year one third of all teams scratched, marking the highest number of scratches out of 12 years of the Yukon River Quest.
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2010 Yukon River Quest top three results
Voyageur canoe – open
1. Texans 42:48
2. Breaking Wind 46:36
3. Dragon Healers 52:58
Voyageur canoe – mixed
1. Two Paddles Short 58:28
Voyageur canoe – women
1. Paddlers Abreast 56:35
2. Team Whoa 59:36
3. Yukon Buddies 68:23
Solo kayak – men
1. Merrell/Akali – Huki 42:49
2. Paddling Forward 50:31
3. Sidley Austin 54:18
Solo kayak – women
1. Merrell/Akali 51:43
2. Kria 58:48
2. Light on Water 58:48
3. Wildflower 61:34
Tandem kayak – men
1. The Dung Beetles 49:59
2. Halifak Explosion 50:25
3. Quick Quokkas 50:53
Tandem kayak – mixed
1. Team SofA 56:31
2. Two Bucks 58:05
3. Marriage Prep 63:12
Tandem kayak – women
1. Pees in a Pod 66:11
Tandem canoe – men
1. Experimental Curry Powder 54:50
2. Good, Bad, Ugly 55:08
3. Load of Bull 58:31
Tandem kayak – mixed
1. Yukon Jam 50:42
2. This is Your Idea 53:13
3. Kanu-2-D 58:45
Tandem kayak – women
1. SARtifiable 58:34
2. Blonder’nStronger 68:24
Solo canoe – open
1. Paddling Problem 52:35
2. Southern Extreme 57:25
3. Team B 66:21
For complete results, see the Yukon River Quest’s website at http://www.yukonriverquest.com