The Story of the 2009 Yukon 360
The discovery day weekend saw the second running of the Yukon360 canoe race. The way this canoe and kayak race is structured is that every boat must stop for eight hours every night (checked by GPS tracking). This makes it an intense race for the faster paddlers as they can paddle hard for 10 hours on the first day, recover, and paddle hard again on the Sunday. It also makes it an enjoyable race for less experienced paddlers who can paddle the distance and get some rest. While the race is put on with local paddlers, being designed to fit into the long weekend and by being on a different river each year, it also attracts paddlers from Alaska, the rest of the USA, and overseas. This year it was the Pelly River from Faro to Pelly Crossing, a distance of 298 Km.
We had 13 teams start after one team had to drop out at the last minute. We also had 13 finishers: teams really do not have much choice about finishing as there is no way off the river between Faro and Pelly Crossing. Amongst the paddlers there were a number with an impressive racing background. Both Tim Hodgson and Dave Dahl hold the record in the Yukon River Quest, and Dave came a very close second in tandem canoe in the Yukon 1000 this year. Aly Morham came second in a competitive Women's solo kayak class in the YRQ this year. Pat and Yvonne held the women's canoe record in the YRQ for several years, and Jane Vincent and Tim Hodgson won the '09 YRQ tandem canoe category in '09. The two Australians, John Scott and Harold Downes placed 12th and 18th solo kayak in the prestigious Hawsbury Classic canoe race in Australia last year out of a field of 90 solos.
The water level was extremely low, and the Sun was extremely high. In fact it was so hot that it was advantage to the only non-northerners in the race, a couple of solo kayakers from Brisbane, Australia. In fact it was so hot on the Sunday that team 7, pat and Yvonne, took time out a couple of times to go skinny dipping in the Pelly to cool off. It may have cost them some time, but cooling off might have helped their paddling sufficient to make up for it.
Shortly after the start there was a choice of channels, and the lead pack chose one, the tail to the other. When the river came back, the positions were reversed. This meant that team 8, "Splish splash lily dippers" were in the lead, a lead they held for 14 Km before being overtaken by team 9, " the paddling Frenchmen". Team 9 was to hold that lead all the way to Faro. However the rest of the field was not settled. This was not a procession, it was a race all the way. For almost all if the time on the first day, and much of the second, boats from second place to seventh could see each other and there was much changing of position.
By the afternoon of the second day, the pack had separated somewhat, but the lead solo, Tim Hodgson, could see the second place solo, Aly Morham, perhaps half a kilometre behind. This was approaching the Macmillan River. Here there is a narrow channel just under a kilometre long that cuts off maybe 4 kilometres of river. But it looked unpromising and it was very low water. Tim took the long route, and Aly, figuring there was nothing to lose, took the cut off. While she did have to pull her boat over some shallows, it was a gamble that paid off handsomely, and she popped out of that channel half a kilometre ahead of Tim, a lead that despite everything Tim could do Aly held on to all the way to the finish.
Nine boats finished on the Sunday, the last two coming in at 10:57 and 10:59, just seconds before they would have started accumulating penalties for paddling after 11pm, forbidden by the rules.
There were several veterans of the Yukon 1000 in the race, notably Dave Dahl who was in both the 2009 and 2010 Yukon 1000, Cristan and Alex McLain who were in the 2009 Yukon 1000, and Monique Dube who was back with something to prove after being forced to withdraw from this year's Yukon 1000
Prize money was awarded based on the number of people entered in each class, so first place canoers got $380 each, second $190, third $95 each. The Solo boats got $272, second $136, third $68.
A special "Cowboy Award" of $50 was given to Tim Hodgson. Early Sunday morning Peter Coates was sufficiently stupid as to let his canoe escape, and Tim rounded up this loose horse for him. This $50 was subtracted from Peter's prize for endangering himself and generally being an idiot.