Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

PADDLERS’ PUSH – Team 4, Paddler’s Abreast, Women’s Voyageur, gets a big push at today’s 9 a.m. start of the Yukon River Quest at Rotary Peace Park in Whitehorse.

Yukon River Quest off and paddling

The Yukon River Quest (YRQ) took off at 9 a.m. today. It was the first of two starts, with the second taking place at high noon.

By Morris Prokop on June 22, 2022

The Yukon River Quest (YRQ) took off at 9 a.m. today. It was the first of two starts, with the second taking place at high noon.

Team 13, Ms. Bianca and Evinrude, a.k.a. Jason Biensch and his mom, Linda Casson, in Mixed Tandem Canoe, were ready to go.

“It’s nice to be finally going, because we’ve been delayed three times, so this is the third time,” said Casson.

“The water levels are a little bit spooky, but we’ve trained really hard, and I’m relying on my partner,” she added.

“You always think it’s gonna be easy. When you get to the day before or the day of, you start getting nervous, but I think this year has been a bit of an exception; they’ve really been hammering in all the risks so, I feel like we’re going into it prepared but that adds to the anxiety a bit but we’ve done our training, tipped in Laberge already just to see how it felt ... it was cold!” said Biensch.

“Ironically, you find out you’re much more prepared during the race, so we’ll get some lessons learned for training next time.”

Biensch and Casson will be racing their “arch-rivals”, Team 5, Lister Motor Sports’ Spencer Edelman and his father, Brian. Spencer Edelman and Biensch are racing buddies.

“This was gonna be a relaxing race this year, and ironically I think it’s become more competitive than anything, but I predict Spencer and his dad will take off,” said Biensch.

“They’ll beat us to the end of Laberge, but it’s a long race, so, hopefully they can hang in there,” said Biensch.

“If not, we’ll be waiting for them in Dawson with a beer.”

The original plan was for the two teams to stick together.

“It was, but different paddling styles – one of the benefits of this race is you end up joining up with groups of similar-style paddlers and you can’t predict who that’s gonna be, but if he’s one of those, that’d be awesome – although I’ve spent 150 hours in a boat with him already so I don’t know if I want to spend any more time with him on this race – but it’ll be good,” said Biensch.

“I’m stoked to meet – there’s a lot of cool people here,” added Biensch.

“And I think, too, like for me, too, the paddling piece of it, I haven’t done thousands of hours.

“I’ve done enough, but I’m also conscious of my capacity and what I can carry, and I know I want to find a stroke speed that helps me carry that over the next 50 – 49 – hours,” said Casson, correcting herself.

She added, “I would like to thank the volunteers. It’s been so well-co-ordinated, and they’ve dealt with difficult times and they’re just so immensely professional.”

Team Estonia, including Team 24, Martin Ilumets and Marek Lindmaa in Men’s Tandem Kayak, were feeling very good and in great spirits.

“Weather is nice, company is quite OK – I mean the company on my right hand,” said Ilumets, gesturing to Lindmaa. “My partner is good,” Ilumets added.

“Boat is finally ready like, equipment is done. Everything is inside and nothing is missing,” said Ilumets.

“A spoon was missing,” chimed in Lindmaa.

“A spoon was missing but even this be found,” countered Ilumets.

“Mentally, we are ready ... and physically also. Now we have prepared one week before here,” he added.

“It’s probably going to be windy on the river as usual – more windy than on the ground,” said Ilumets.

Despite the wind, Ilumets wasn’t expecting any problems on Lake Laberge.

“We understand that there’s a northwest wind coming. It is not the best, but it is not stormy.

“We have paddled overseas back home so we hope that it’s not too worse.”

Alison Eremenko, Team 1, Gulo gulo in Solo Women’s Canoe, said she was feeling OK, but a little uneasy.

“A little unsettled as always, but I think there’s that assurance that everybody’s feeling that same way,” related Eremenko, who was working on very little sleep.

“I’ve actually been in the midst of moving the last few days as well, so it’s been a lot. Just looking forward to getting started off.”

Eremenko was dealing with a case of the “butterflies.”

“Nothing that some Pepto Bismal can’t help,” she said.

“It’s really one of these races that once you’re on the water and that’s sort of where you are at the moment and just kind of focusing in on paddling and heading down the river.”

Eremenko is anticipating some challenges.

“High water and debris, potentially ... so it’s really just about watching what’s ahead of you and just being observant, being aware of your surroundings at all times.”

Eremenko added, “Good luck to all the participants. It’s always a big volunteer effort with the race so kudos to everyone again for organizing the event ... I’m looking forward to being in Dawson.”

This morning, the Star also caught up to Goran Gustavsson from Villsh, Sweden Team 63, Kajaktiv, Men’s SUP. “Feeling better today,” said Gustavsson.

“Now we’re all set, and there’s nothing more I can do. I’m really prepared. I’m really looking forward to it now. Just gonna make the most of it and have fun.”

Lake Laberge is a concern for the paddler.

“Everyone talking about it because it’s gonna be a headwind but hopefully put your head down and push it through. And once you’re on the other side – hopefully before 10 p.m. tonight. Gustavsson added “(I) wish the spirits look after me.”

YRQ president Deb Bartlette was relieved the start was finally at hand.

“Things went really well this morning,” she said.

“We spent yesterday and all weekend at the pre-race sign-in telling racers about the conditions they’re going to face, being really honest about ‘here’s what it’s going to be like,’ making sure that they were prepared and fully aware of what they would be dealing with yesterday at the racer briefing.

“We went all through the latest conditions, our checkpoint people are mostly out there already and our powerboat people, they’re all set up to go,” Bartlette added.

“We’ve checked with Coal Mine (Campground). That’s still good. We’re putting in some extra reinforcing around the dock area so that’s a little easier for paddlers to work with, so we’ll just keep our fingers crossed, as we do every year, that we have a good race.”

Bartlette figured the number of racers entered was down to about 106.

“A couple people injured at the last minute or not feeling well and deciding not to paddle and then a few deciding they were not up for conditions, which is just fine,” she said.

“Every year we have about a third of the paddlers drop out at Carmacks, no matter what the weather is like or the water flows are like, ’cause it’s a race and things can happen.

“We’d be happier if the wind was not around this morning. It’s coming form the northwest, but it’s not too strong, so it could be worse,” Bartlette added.

She estimates there are five or six paddlers intending to only go as far as Carmacks for the half-race segment of the YRQ.

The volunteers, she added, “have been amazing; very smooth for the 9 o’clock start this morning. It went really smoothly, so fingers crossed it’s gonna be that way the whole race.”

Be the first to comment

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.