I spent the morning finalizing the maps. I am using a combination of Mike Rourke's river maps and Topographical maps which I got from Mac's Fireweed Books in Whitehorse and Google Earth.
What is critical racing on a river as fast as this is knowing where you are. Finding the fast water and the shortcuts. Paddle smart and you don't have to paddle hard. There are 110 maps, each map covers 15 to 20 kilometers. About an hours paddling. I am reducing them to A5 size, to make them manageable on my lap, putting them into sets and getting them laminated and bound, At some points in the river the river basin is 10 kilometers across, with 6 or 7 different channels and the best channel up to a kilometer wide.
Taking the wrong channel will find us in very slow water. So I am clearly marking the way through with the fastest channel. Which is not necessarily the widest.
I was able to use my times on the river in the three times I did the Yukon River Quest, at 760 kilometers that is less than half this race, but I have also used as a comparison the times of last years competitors, and in particular for the second half. So to navigate we will use both time distance down the river from known points, as well as way-points, Latitude and longitude. So I know where we should be time wise the whole race. Provided we can maintain those speeds.
One critical time on the river is Lake Laberge. Lake Laberge is only about 2 hrs after the start, it is about 4 kilometers wide and 50 kilometers long. The other end of the lake is well and truly over the horizon and it can get very rough. As an idea this part of the race is equal to about two Twenty Beaches races or about the same length as the Molokai . If the wind is against you as it was for me in 2005 it can take 7 hours. In 2006 it was behind me and I surfed the lake for 4 hours with the GPS often clicking at 18 k/h. So that 3 hours difference may put my ETAs way out.
I took advantage of the stiff south westerly on Sydney Harbour this afternoon to brush up on my rough water skills I need on Lake Laberge. Under Dean Gardner's (Ocean Paddler) guidance I have been paddling racing skis for a few years now, graduating from a Fenn XT to a Fenn Mako 6. The difference between paddling these skis and the Horizon Tourer is that once on a wave they take off faster and track straight. The Tourer needs much more aggressive handling, requiring big sweep strokes to keep straight on a steep wave. The other difference is the weight. The Mako 6 weighs in at 11 kilos, fully loaded, even with super light gear for the race, the Tourer will be about 35 kilos.And of course the Yukon is fresh water so the boat will be lower.
To give me more power with less strain for this race I have lifted the seat about 70mm. This of course reduces stability a lot, so I have been combining straight smooth slog training with a bit of rough stuff.
Anyhow there was this afternoon, a good steep chop, and a swell building through the heads. So I was able to battle up wind from Manly to under South Head, Then scream back down wind to Manly Ocean World.
Three times crossing the heads I was confident in the boat and able to hold over 17 kilomers per hour on a few steep ones.