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World’s longest annual canoe race chases the midnight sun

May 23, 2017 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

A total of 100 teams from all over the world, including two Australian participants, will take their mark at the 19th annual Yukon River Quest, known as the ‘race to the midnight sun’ on June 28, 2017.

Competitors from 11 countries will paddle the gruelling 715 kilometres from Whitehorse to Dawson City in Canada’s north-western Yukon Territory, with just 55 hours to complete the task. All teams must finish the journey before midnight on 2 July.

Notorious as one of the most arduous marathon events on Earth, the Yukon River Quest is the longest race of its kind, with just two mandatory rest stops along the way, and a sun that never sets, due to Yukon’s position 60 degrees north of the Earth’s equator.

Participating in the Yukon River Quest for the third time, 37-year-old Sydneysider, Esther Wheeler, can’t resist the lure of the north.

“Each year the Yukon calls me back and I can’t say no,” she says.

Likewise, 62-year-old Steve Morrison, also from Sydney, is looking forward to immersing himself in the vast Yukon wilderness.

“It’s a great opportunity to experience a fantastic event in a stunning location,” says Steve.

Steve and Esther hope to follow in the footsteps of the Down Under Dogs, an Aussie six-man voyageur team that won the 2012 title in spectacular fashion, crossing the finish line in under 42 hours, nearly an hour ahead of the second-place finishers.

Competitors range from larger groups in voyageur canoes, to lone kayakers, each one prepared to paddle the river day and night, vying for a share in a race purse worth approximately $39,200 (CAD) and the personal satisfaction of earning a much-coveted YRQ Finisher Pin.

SUP (Stand Up Paddleboards) is a new category for 2017, as well as four-person stock C4 canoes in the voyageur class.  Hundreds of spectators are expected to line the river banks to watch the colourful boats set off and to cheer on the competitors throughout the day and night.

The Yukon River Quest, supported by more than 200 volunteers, is widely recognised as a premier race throughout the paddling world. Along the way, participants are treated to the magnificent scenery and unspoiled nature along the historic Yukon River, one of North America’s longest, and the primary transportation route during the development of the territory.

Today, the Yukon River is a popular route for paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts, whether racing to the finish or enjoying its stunning wilderness at a more relaxed pace. Visitors to Whitehorse can spend the day on the river, cruising by old relics of steamers, cabins, and gold dredges, left over from the gold seekers of the Klondike Gold Rush.

This fast-flowing river passes by iconic landmarks including Lake Laberge, made famous by poet, Robert Service. Whether you’ve never paddled before or consider yourself a seasoned pro, paddling the Yukon River is a classic Yukon experience.

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