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BRAVE SOULS – Colin Angus, left, and Steven Price rowed from Whitehorse to Dawson City in 50 hours, 50 minutes. The duo completed the feat without stopping. Photo courtesy of STEVEN PRICE

Paddling duo completes personal quest in rowboat

Two paddlers are hoping their feat of rowing non-stop from Whitehorse to Dawson City will help get Yukon River Quest officials to change the race rules.

By Marcel Vander Wier on July 12, 2013

Two paddlers are hoping their feat of rowing non-stop from Whitehorse to Dawson City will help get Yukon River Quest officials to change the race rules.

In late June, 41-year-old Colin Angus of Comox, B.C. and 62-year-old Steven Price of Stillwater, Okla. paddled the 715-km route down the Yukon River in a time of 50 hours, 50 minutes.

The duo completed the odyssey without stopping in a 16-foot Oxford Wherry rowboat.

Angus and Price had two primary goals in their quest – to break the Yukon River Quest record for fastest time, and to demonstrate the unique capability of a rowboat over a kayak or canoe to maintain high speeds indefinitely in long distance racing.

If it wasn't for Lake Laberge, Price believes they would have had a shot at Team Kissynew's course record of 39:32:43, set in 2008.

"Due to unexpected conditions on Lake Laberge, we didn't quite reach the first goal, but we certainly met the second one,” Price said. "At one point, so much water was coming into the boat from waves, that we could only just keep up with the bailing.”

The boat, designed and built by Angus, contained a sleeping platform, oars, riggers, and gears. For propulsion's sake, the two utilized a sliding seat rowing system and carbon-fibre oars.

"Sliding seat rowing is more powerful than paddling, which allows it to go significantly faster than canoes or kayaks,” Price explained.

The main disadvantage of the duo's boat was the rear vantage point, said Price.

"To overcome the challenge of facing backwards, we had to use a combination of a rearview mirror mounted on sunglasses, continuous body- and head-turning, and assistance from the resting person,” Price said.

When the two contacted River Quest officials about their desire to race, they were turned away, as their boat did not meet the specs for any of the race categories.

Current race president Carl Rumscheidt said the duo contacted the River Quest after the deadline for boat categories and race rules had been set for the 2013 race.

Rumscheidt said discussions will be held in the coming months regarding potential changes to categories for the 16th edition of the race next summer.

The River Quest is an event steeped in tradition, Rumscheidt said, and he feels it unlikely that the race opens to boats other than kayak or canoes.

"This is the Yukon River Quest, not the Connecticut River, or the Thames where rowboats have competed historically for years and years,” he said. "The tradition on the river and frontier rivers was canoes, and then kayaks were added along the way.

"So does it fit with the heritage and tradition of what we do? Maybe not. But that would be one of the things that we'd look at in considering it.”

Rumscheidt said the River Quest board has taken all sorts of requests over the years, including one athlete who wished to compete as a hand paddler, and another who wanted to complete the race on a stand-up paddleboard.

Despite the race rules, the race president said he was impressed with the rowers feat.

"For somebody to paddle from Whitehorse to Dawson City on the Yukon River in a very short period of time, however you do it, I think is quite a feat,” he said. "I certainly take my hat off to people for trying, and testing themselves in that way.”

Comments (1)

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Steven Price on Jul 13, 2013 at 2:08 am

The Yukon River Quest's record time of 39 hours 32 minutes is not total elapsed time. They had a mandatory 10 hour rest. The YRQ's fastest total elapsed time from start to finish is 49 hours 32 minutes, making our total elapsed time of 50 hours 50 minutes only 1 hour 18 minutes slower than the YRQ record—and several hours FASTER than the best time in the 2013, race or even in the last 4 years.

Also, we had "gear,” not "gears” (we'd hate the readership to think we had some mechanical advantage other than our backs).

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