Information for Racers
This race has a completely new structure that was not possible in the past. We rely on technology to make it possible to police the behaviour of teams without having to have a small army of volunteers. I know that people will have questions. That is what the forum is for. But I will try to anticipate some of the questions.
Race control will be almost totally virtual. Every team MUST carry a Spot device. And someone in each boat MUST press the OK button at least every 6 hours (except between 21:30 and 05:30). In addition, they must press the OK button before 23:15 in the evening and again at least six hours laterfrom the same location. This enables us to enforce a "no paddling at night" policy, and to track the progress of racers. The results page will be updated every 15 minutes to reflect any new information coming in. This will be displayed in three different ways.
First is that on the web page, teams will be displayed with their locations. The location will be given as dull latitude and longitude and as a distance before or after the nearest waypoint, e.g. "9.372 km before Eagle". Teams will be displayed with the one furthest down the river listed first. There will also be a link to google maps to show the location of the boat. Then there will be a link on the page that will download into Google Earth a file that displays the current location of all boats and their checkin history.
To help people identify where these waypoints are, this is a link to a google earth kml file that will show you the places we define: Waypoints or in text format, Waypoints as text Note that the coordinates are given as decimal degrees.
This should make this an exciting race to view over the web.
This race is very long. We expect the first finisher to take seven or eight days.
If there is bad weather or some other disruption it is perfectly reasonable to expect the tail of the race to take two weeks or even longer. I intend taking two weeks supply of food at race rations, and another week at normal rations. That translates into 35 "2 person" freeze-dried meals per person, and equivalent amounts of breakfast and race food.
We do not want to be in the business of checking everyone's food. The rules say "Teams should carry enough food to sustain them throughout this wilderness race". That means if you get storm bound or otherwise delayed out there and you get hungry and into trouble, you WILL be disqualified from the race. That is because you broke the rules. If someone gets into trouble, the authorities will ask questions, and we will make it quite clear to them that you got in trouble because you broke the rules.
You have to have finished the the Yukon 360 or the Yukon River Quest or have equivalent racing and wilderness experience to be allowed to enter this race. That means you have some idea what the river is like. But it gets bigger, and wider, and more difficult as it does on.
From Dawson to Circle the river should look and feel fairly familiar. It is not that dissimilar to the river from the Sixty Mile River to Dawson. After Circle you are into the Yukon Flats. The river still makes good progress if you choose the right channel. But they are often sufficiently shallow that snags are common, and if you make an unwise choice of channel, you may find yourself walking beside you boat.
I am not going to tell you all the potential hazards on the river. I'm quite sure I don't know them all. But I will tell you a few that may surprise.
One time I was paddling round a long sweeping bend to the left. I was over on river right enjoying a nice boost from the current. The bank was a couple of metres high, perhaps less, being undercut with a lot of spruce sweepers. I was keeping my distance, a couple of canoe lengths out from the tips of these hazards and thinking to myself that I was taking a risk. I did not know what the risk was but I felt nervous. What happened next was a real surprise, an is a phenomenon I associate with white water rather than big placid rivers. Rather than flowing cleanly round the bend, the river was, in places, folding over itself. I went from water that was flowing around the bend into a chunk of water that was flowing straight at the bank. I found myself turned 90 degrees, and my bow brushing the sweepers. This could have been nasty.
A few days later I was paddling against a fairly strong head wind. Now this section of river is big and open with long fetches so it responds to wind much like a lake, but with the wind against the current the waves are even shorter and sharper. A 20 kph wind was causing waves a foot or a foot and a half high. So I had to contend with a head wind, a strong current, waves, and snags. And my hat blew off. I back paddled to rescue my hat, which promptly sank, leaving me with no way on the boat, in waves wind and current being pushed towards snags. I paddled very hard and everything was fine. The message is that this is not a little, forgiving, river.
Weather happens. I can remember looking at some "distant" blackness ahead thinking "It is going to rain shortly". I only had time for form the thought when the heavens opened, I was soaked, visibility dropped to zero, and the wind kicked up. Not good.
Another time, we pulled over to the side to rest after fighting the wind all day. there were three thunderstorms behind us: not a threat as the wind was in our teeth (when is it not?). After a little while, just as I was thinking about getting off again, I noticed that the three thunderstorms had merged and appeared closer. As a precaution I put up the tent and tied the boats to a tree. Shortly after that we had an almighty hail storm and wind storm. I was impressed with the tent. It would have been uncomfortable in the extreme, dangerous even, to have been out in that.
If you are planning on doing this race, you should pack as if you are doing a solo wilderness trip through very lonely, very exposed country. Because that is exactly what you will be doing.
I will be taking a real tent and a real sleeping bag, and the full first aid kit I take on long trips. I will take two Leatherman multi-tools so I can use a screwdriver and pair of pliers at the same time. I will take lots of spare clothes. There could be several days where you can not get dry.