Yukon Rowing Quest to Start
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The Oxford Wherry we'll be using on the Yukon[/caption]This is the month for breaking human powered boating records. Jerome Truran, a seasoned kayaker well known for his role in the first descent of the Amazon is currently trying to break my speed record for circumnavigating Vancouver Island. Sarah Outen is mid-ocean trying to be the first woman to row across the north pacific. Kevin Vallely and team are days away from launching in the Arctic Ocean attempting to be the first to row through the Northwest Passage. And currently two remaining teams are battling to break speed records rowing non-stop and unsupported around the Isle of Britain.
The energy is palpable, and it feels like a good month to be embarking on our own record breaking quest. In five days Steve Price and I will be launching our customized, self-built Oxford Wherry in the Yukon River attempting to break the record for the fastest time travelling from Whitehorse to Dawson City in a human-powered boat. The current record is 49 hours and 32 minutes, and we’re hoping to cover this 715 km distance in less than two days.
Several have expressed curiosity about using a rowboat to break a record that has previously been held by canoes and kayaks. We received the same question prior to breaking the speed record around Vancouver Island – a rowboat is generally not the type of craft people imagine to be navigating wave-wracked coastal conditions with grace and speed.
Of course, the word “rowboat” usually conjures an image of a vessel quite different to what we will be using. People imagine tubby overweight craft propelled by a couple of wooden oars from Canadian Tire. The boats we have built and designed, however, are long and sleek and designed to be fast and seaworthy. The boat we are using on the Yukon River is propelled with carbon fiber oars and a sliding seat rowing system. Sliding seat rowing allows you to utilize the larger muscles of your back and legs and is one of the fastest ways of propelling a boat. With larger muscles being used, you can also go longer without feeling fatigued.
The boat we are using for our Yukon quest looks similar to a canoe in its overall shape, and we have incorporated elements of traditional rowboat design for aesthetics. Unlike a canoe, however, one person can propel it at about three times the speed that one person can propel a canoe. This gives us a unique advantage for long distance racing as it means one person can propel the boat and a passenger at a sustainable rate of about 8 km/hr. He can then rest while his partner takes to the oars. This allows for non-stop speedy voyaging for days on end.
All previous teams that have held the record for paddling from Whitehorse to Fairbanks have required rest stops due to the impossibility of individuals paddling non-stop for 715 km. We are hoping our non-stop strategy will pay off.
The interior layout of the boat has also been designed specifically for this quest. The sliding seat rowing station is placed in the rear half of the vessel, and the forward half – the princess zone - is a plywood bed covered in a Thermarest. It’s surprisingly comfortable on the bed, so as long as we succeed in not capsizing the boat changing shifts, rests periods should be invigorating.
The restee will eat, sleep, offer insults to the rower, and lazily regard the passing scenery. If you’re interested in following our record breaking attempt beginning June 26th we’ll have a live satellite tracker and will be posting regular updates. You can follow it all here: www.angusadventures.com
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