YUKON TERRITORY — Mount Desert Island resident Ander Thebaud and paddling partner Terry Wescott, alternately paddling and choking down peanut butter sandwiches, glided through the finish of the Yukon River Quest, a 444-mile endurance race in the Yukon Territory in Canada this summer.
Ms. Thebaud still recalls precisely how long it took her and Mr. Wescott to finish first in class: 49 hours, 24 minutes, and 49 seconds.
“The only thing I can tell you is that when it got cold, the other teams slowed down,” said Mr. Wescott. “But we sped up when it got cold, because we’re used to that.”
Averaging roughly 6 miles per hour over the duration of the race, the experienced paddlers went from Whitehouse to Dawson City, mostly on the Yukon River. There were more than 65 other teams at the outset, though not all teams that began the race finished.
While the rough and blustery conditions might not have been for everyone, Ms. Thebaud said the apparently grueling pace felt just right. “It was really comfortable to paddle because we had a great setup.” she said. “I hardly even kept track of time.”
Ms. Thebaud and Mr. Wescott participated in the mixed gender, two-person canoe category. The event took place June 27 to July 1.
There were two mandatory stops during the race, where the teams un-cramped their limbs to reload on food and revitalize with some sleep for seven- and three-hour breaks. At one stop, Mr. Wescott and Ms. Thebaud were given hamburgers, fries and milkshakes, a contrast to the usual river meals of nuts, fruit and hasty sandwiches.
“Terry was talking about that pretty much the entire race,” said Ms. Thebaud.
“Well, I found after a 70-mile race with a friend one time, that stuff revives you real quick,” said Mr. Wescott. “Just a shake, a hamburger, and some real greasy fries.”
With nearly perpetual daylight, the race to the finish is also a race to keep up with the sun, which never quite sets during the summer solstice. The YRK sometimes refers to the event as the “Race to the Midnight Sun.”
Ms. Thebaud, who is 46 years old, has raced and placed in numerous other canoeing events, including the General Clinton, a 70-mile race she has finished on eight occasions.
Mr. Wescott, her partner and close friend, listed a slew of endurance boating races on his YRK biography in addition to 52 years of white water racing. Mr. Wescott is 62 years old. “The key to paddling is doing a lot of it,” he said. “I’ve done 35 races this year. I try to do 40 every year.”