Tandem canoe team holds slim lead entering Carmacks
CARMACKS – Two tandem paddling teams continue to battle stroke-for-stroke in the early going of the Yukon River Quest.
The canoe duo holds a seven-minute advantage over the kayak at Carmacks, the first mandatory layover along the race route.
Menʼs tandem canoe Team 19 ʻRound Side Downʼ pulled into the Coal Mine Campground just before 8 a.m. this morning.
Paddler Tim Lynch of Faro and Dave Lewis of Nova Scotia held their early lead over Australians Tom Simmat and Urs Mader of Team 20ʼs ʻOn the Way to Maineʼ after passing them on the river after Lake Laberge.
Menʼs tandem canoe team No. 32 ʻMen of the Midnight Sunʼ was third, arriving at 8:20 a.m.
“Conditions were good,” Lynch told the Star. “It was a little hot yesterday. It kind of made it a long night after Lake Laberge.”
The Yukoner admitted it will be touch to shake the Aussie duo that remained hot on their heels.
“Theyʼre really good,” he said. “But so far, so good. Weʼd like to make it to Dawson.”
Both he and Lewis also competed in the race last year. Things have changed thus far, however, as last year they spent much of the race following in the wake of the womenʼs voyageur team ʻSkirting Disaster.ʼ
“They knew the river and we followed them,” said Lynch. “Weʼre missing them.”
ʻOn the Way to Maineʼ lead paddler Tom Simmat said they werenʼt able to keep pace with the leaders in the fast water past the lake.
The two had exchanged leads a few times before the canoe team took the lead for good about two hours before reaching Carmacks.
“We expected to be in the first two,” Simmat chuckled.
“We actually really expected the voyageurs to be ahead of us,” admitted Mader. “Theyʼre normally in front of us, so thatʼs a surprise.”
A large contingent of volunteers and fans was on hand to welcome the leaders in, after the campground was awakened at 5:15 a.m. by a group of angry crows.
Whoops and cheers went up from the crowd lining the Yukon River each time a canoe or kayak was spotted on the horizon.
Checkpoint in sight, many paddlers appeared reenergized, paddling strong to the small dock where they were greeted by race volunteers.
Many struggled with sea legs while climbing out of their boats, having spent more than 20 straight hours paddling from Whitehorse.
Inuvik paddler Kendall McDonald, from the third-place team, said he was looking forward to a shower, for starters.
He and teammate Tim Gordon entered Carmacks about an hour faster than their time last year.
Paddlers experienced some good luck while crossing the long, and historically perilous, Lake Laberge.
Smooth waters and sunny skies had racers in good spirits early.
Shouts of “Living the dream!” came from a voyageur canoe paddling past the media boat.
“How far to Dawson?” queried another.
One of the paddlers near the back of the pack even offered $15 for a cold Yukon Gold lager – a request the media boat could not fulfill.
“It was a breeze,” said Mader, who last endured stormy waters on the lake during the 2007 race. “It wasnʼt cold at all. It was calm. Flat as anything.”
Two tourists paddling the lake in a canoe with gear including a guitar and a fishing rod ended up getting some unwanted attention when they ventured across the lake in the midst
Conversations around the checkpoint dealt with the quick tandem canoe and kayak times during the first half of the race.
Typically, the race is led by the eight- or 10-manpower voyageur canoes, but not so this year. The first four teams into Carmacks were tandem teams.
“The whole scope has changed this year,” said longtime race media coordinator Jeff Brady.
“It used to be voyageurs, voyageurs, voyageurs.