A river runs through them

John Browne
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Yukon Quest an unforgettable experience for Buckinghams

Jim Buckingham calls canoeing the Yukon River Quest with his daughter, Linz, a bonding experience hell never forget.

The race is a tough challenge, but worth every minute of it, according to Buckingham who intends to return this year.

Billed as the longest annual canoe and kayak race in the world, the race from Whitehorse to Dawson City, Yukon attracts participants from around the world.

Its absolutely fantastic, Buckingham said about the wilderness adventure paddling marathon.

Its everything I thought it would be and so much more.

The race, which starts Wednesday, opens with a half kilometre mass-start run to the boats from Whitehorses Main Street.

Buckingham said the most difficult part of the course is the first 12 hours on Lake Lebarge, made famous by the The Cremation of Sam McGee by poet Robert William Service.

Its a 40-mile lake, and last year, we had to battle high winds and rain. Its so difficult, that if the winds are too high, theyll spot the race until things clear up, he explained.

Later on, competitors face the Five Fingers Rapids and there is information provided on how to make it through safely. There are two stopovers, one for seven hours and one for a day which separates different stages of the course so that participants wont get fatigued.

Last year, 19 of about 75 teams scratched for diverse reasons at various points along the way.

It isnt easy, but its rewarding if you make it, Buckingham said.

Buckingham, 44, is back in the race this summer with his 18-year-old daughter. With a little luck and concentration on making all the right turns, he looks to better last years time of 64 hours. A wrong turn cost him in the 2006 race, but he hopes to avoid that mistake this time year because he knows the river better.

After taking the wrong turn, we just said lets relax because were not going to win, he said with a laugh.

Buckingham, who had the help of sponsors D.F. Barnes and Newfoundland Marine Safety Systems, said he recommends the experience for everyone, but especially for a parent and a child. You really learn to depend on each other.

Buckingham, who is a minor sports coach, wants to take a group of young athletes to the River Quest next year and compete in the voyageur canoe portion of the race.

I think it would be a great way for teammates to bond and I know theyll love it, he said.


Organizations: The Cremation, Robert William Service, Newfoundland Marine Safety Systems

Geographic location: Yukon River, Whitehorse, Dawson City Yukon Whitehorses Main Street Lake Lebarge

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